Wildflowers, Coastal Cliffs near San Francisco. 2010. Canon 1Ds Mark III.


Welcome to the August 2010 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

This month's View From Here column walks through some RAW files and Processing issues and considerations.

The intensive RAW to Print: Summer Digital Boot Camp August 9-13 is coming right up next week and there are spots left in what will likely be a small class. This is an deep plunge into the making, editing and printing of photographs.

Many have asked for a Summer Fine Art Digital Printing course so we have scheduled one for August 21-24. Additionally, for those who cannot spare a whole weekend, we are now offering a one-day seminar dealing with more introductory material in our Introduction to Digital Photography on Saturday August 28.

After many requests for more help with learning Photoshop, we have added another session of our Photoshop and Photography classes, Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color, for September 11-12. We ran a section of this last January and people felt is was very valuable.

Our Summer Travel Adventure Workshops include our first ever Tuscany Workshop September 23-30, check it out below.

In the fall, we are offering our 4 day Mono Lake in Autumn Workshop October 14-17 and in early 2011 the Death Valley in Winter workshop January 12-18, 2011.

We now have dates for our spring Galapagos Photography Adventure March 11-21, 2011. Jump on this quickly as it is a wonderful opportunity. We need a minimum of 5 students to hold the ship.

There are scholarships available for the RAW and Printing classes. See below.

I hope some of you can join us yet this summer or over the next few months for some of these offerings.

In an effort to communicate more regularly without additionally burdening anyone with email, we have started a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed where we are making an effort to post a new photograph each week and a technique, tutorial or technical feed. Become a fan of Stephen Johnson Photography on Facebook and follow our Tweets on Twitter to broaden or touch up on your digital techniques and see newly posted photographs. You can subscribe to each with the links above to keep up to date with the latest from the studio.

We are also starting a Blog as another alternative that will feature the monthly essay, the new photographs, techniques and other things as they come to mind.

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Thanks for an amazing experience during the recent RAW to Print workshop. Your course delivered considerably more than I had ever hoped for, and I learned a tremendous amount, as did all the students. Your professionalism and willingness to go the extra-mile for your students was most appreciated, your grasp of the subject matter mind-blowingly deep, the curriculum rich and well structured, and your personal standards very high. The lab is a fantastically complete environment that is very impressive. All in I cannot say enough about how impressed I was on a scale of 1 to 10, your Raw to Print class gets a 12.

-Russ Andersson. July 2010 RAW to Print class.

Additional Workshop Testimonials

maine class

Raw to Print Workshop Field Trip. July 2010. David Gardner.

2010 Workshops
From RAW to Print (in a week) Summer Digital Boot Camp
August 9-13, 2010
Fine-Art Digital Printing Workshop Hands-On
August 21-24, 2010
Introduction to Digital Photography
August 28, 2010, 9am to 5pm
Photoshop and Photography: Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color
September 11-12, 2010.
The Tuscan Landscape with Stephen Johnson
September 23-30, 2010
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 14-17, 2010
2011 Workshops
Death Valley in Winter
January 28-31, 2011
Galapagos Photography Adventure
March 11-21, 2011


RAW to Print August 9-13. Last chance to Register!

Printers Available for Donation!


Scholarships To Upcoming RAW and Printing Workshops

DVD: Matting and Framing

August 2010


Tahoe Fog. 2010.
10x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

An amazing sunrise above the fog at Lake Tahoe drew me out of bed and into the cold early. It was one of those mornings where I felt I was truly relishing the sacred beauty of the planet.

We're offering an 11x14 inch print, matted to 16x20 and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $75, wood for $150. This print at this price is offered through August 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by September 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.


RAW Files

In a departure from my normal essay format, I decided to highlight RAW files and some processing considerations. I hope this is helpful.

Adobe Photoshop Camera RAW

The concept of RAW files was an early and dramatic advance in digital photography. I first encountered RAW files in 1991 with some of the early Kodak digital SLR's and shortly thereafter with the Leaf Digital Camera Back (DCB) in 1992. The idea of an uninterpreted (undeveloped) digital photograph that can be later customized into your desired interpretation is a deeply powerful advance in photography.

Teaching people to work with RAW files is sometimes another matter. The fundamental idea I try very hard to instill from the beginning, is that a RAW file is not yet a photograph, it is a stream of (mostly) uninterpreted data that can be made into a photograph. The image we see as it appears on the back of our cameras is merely a jpeg drawn from the RAW data, and the first view we get in any RAW processor is merely what the programmer thought best as a starting pont in the interpretation, given the camera, their own view of what a photograph ought to look like, the interpretive "looks" of the current preset and what they think their customers will like.

That starting point is customizable, and should be adjusted for the needs of the photograph before you and to your own aesthetic goals. To the right you will see a basic workflow of considerations in the RAW processing sequence and a checklist of Adobe's default assumptions in Lightroom and Camera RAW. I would recommend modifying these to more modest starting points as indicated. These can be reset to your own desired starting points at will or reset to Adobe's default interpretation.


Adobe and Raw Processing (excerpt from Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography)

For the first few years of digital cameras, JPEG was the only picture-saving option in many cameras. As a compressed format with permanent data loss, this was not an acceptable format. Eventually, many of us working in the industry were able to convince camera makers to support uncompressed files, but they were implemented as fully processed TIFFs and therefore were big and slow to save.

In the early 1990s, Kodak, Leaf, and BetterLight pioneered in what has generally become known as a “RAW” format—holding onto their camera data and building software to process these “sensor dumps.” In response to many of our requests, additional camera makers have started incorporating a raw archive format into the file saving options in many cameras. Adobe has even created a documented standard for Raw files known as DNG (Digital Negative), and many companies ares starting to support it.

Preserving the data that the camera sensor can record is a very high priority for pulling every nuance of photographic information from the camera and for long-term options to reprocess and later improve the image as software improves.

The Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are Adobe’s contributions toward a universal interface for accessing and interacting with a variety of camera manufacturer’s RAW/archive formats. Their RAW Processing menus give you access to some very powerful tools.

from my RAW Processing Presentation

Preserve Options
My goal in RAW processing is to move the photograph toward the look and feel that I want, with the overriding goal of preserving information for later and more careful image processing in a real image editor like Photoshop.

Here are a few considerations:

Exposure and Color
Given my suggestion to expose to the right of the Histogram (as discussed in last month's tutorial), initial rendering in a RAW processor might look over-exposed. Just pull the Exposure slider to left to normalize your interpretation of the photograph. Additionally, if you have used a neutral gray source to encode the color of the scene, use the White Balance tool on that card to balance the color after the Exposure is normalized.

Tone Curves
I always work in Point Curves rather than Parametric Curves so that I have the freedom to move the data as I see fit. Adobe's default in both Lightroom and Camera RAW is set to the Parametric Tone Curve Editor. When switching to Point Curve, the default is set to a Medium Contrast which is a slight "S" curve darkening shadows and boosting highlights. I switch this to Linear, which is a straight line no change starting point, then adjust the curve to what I believe is needed for the image. Revealing and preserving detail is always my mantra. Moving toward the interpretation I desire is second. Thirdly, in RAW processing I try to leave myself tonal editing room for Photoshop by not driving detail into empty black shadows or blank white highlights.

Consequently, my initial decisions can leave the image looking a little gray as I strive to preserve highlight and shadow detail.

Lens Correction/Chromatic Aberration
A lens can only focus on a particular wavelength of light, consequently on only one of the three primary colors. Most systems are prejudiced toward the green as it falls in-between red and blue on the visible spectrum. Lenses are designed to try to bring the primary colors into as close a focus on the red and blue as well, particularly APO (apochromatic lenses).

Whatever the lens design success is at this effort, it's weakest point is generally the edges of the lens coverage, thus the edge of your photograph. Consequently that is where misregistration of the color (chromatic aberration) is mostly likely to occur, and the location in the image where I zoom in and try to re-align the color planes with RAW processing Lens Correction tools. Try to always check and correct for Chromatic Aberration.

Sharpening and Noise Reduction
I'm also very reticent to impose Sharpening (edge contrast exaggeration) or Noise Reduction (color blurring) on the RAW file as I feel I can do a more effective and selective "tightening up" of the photograph in Photoshop. If the image has a boosted ISO or is under-exposed, I will check for noise in the shadows by zooming into at least 100% and may use a little Noise Reduction, but usually far less than the default of 25 which I feel is often way too much, resulting in major color blurring and image sharpness loss.

Of course, the ability to get the most out of the RAW file starts with a good Histograms and Exposure Tutorial from last month's News.

If there is any interest in s producing a downloadable pdf on RAW files, please email us. We could proably do one for about $5.




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

workshop head

The Digital Lab at Stephen Johnson Photography
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.

Referral Discounts

As we are always trying to enlarge our reach out to people to let them know about the workshops, we have instituted a discount policy that can be earned by referring people to the program. It is simply, if they list you as having referred them, and they take a workshop, you get 10% off the next workshop you take from us within one year. These referrals are cumulative and can even bring a you a free workshop. Again, they do have to be redeemed within one year. Deal? Deal.

iCal Calendar of Our Workshop Program

-View our Workshop Calendar.
-Subscribe to our Workshop Calendar.
-Learn more about iCal or to download a copy.

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.

Workshop Scholarship Program

In order to make workshops available to people who cannot afford them and to support students studying photography, we have started a photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops.

Scholarships are available to full-time college students enrolled in a photography program. Let people know who you think might be interested. Applications must be for a particular workshop.

To apply, please download the application form and send it to us by mail or email


From RAW to Print in One Week
Summer Digital Boot Camp
Studios of Stephen Johnson Photography, Pacifica, CA
August 9-13, 2010


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.





Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
August 21-24, 2010
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.



Introduction to Digital Photography
August 28, 2010, 9am to 5pm
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

Photographer Stephen Johnson takes students through basic digital camera functionality, features, controls and working procedures. The morning is designed to de-mystify camera controls and offer insight into how these new devices can provide instant gratification and still be used to learn to make stronger photographs. It will examine the diversity of features available on various cameras, their use and influence on the resulting photographs and will include discussion on field work with digital cameras.

The afternoon section works through digital cameras in further detail, delves into editing software to help students make better photographs. The presentation is designed to help users assert more control over making, editing and then printing their photographs.



Photographers & Photoshop Series
Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color

September 11-12, 2010

This workshop births a new series concentrating on the tools within Photoshop critical to Photographers. It is a great chance to explore digital photographic editing with Steve. Hands-on help and demonstrations of his use of editing tools with restraint and finesse will benefit all of your digital photography work. This class is designed to break down the steps to really understand the processes, and to work through difficult images..


tuscany photo from Discover

The Tuscan Landscape with Stephen Johnson
September 23-30, 2010

Spend a week in Italy with renowned landscape photographer/educator Stephen Johnson. Centered in a 12th Century Tuscan monastery, this photography workshop promises to be an extraordinary opportunity to explore the Tuscan landscape and learn from one of the most dynamic educators and talented photographers working today.

Workshop headquarters will be San Fedele, an ex-monastery dating back to the 12th century.  It is situated in the Chianti hills, 12 km north of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.  The nearest towns are the medieval city of Radda-in-Chianti and the village of Vagliagli. San Fedele was completely restored beginning in 2001 and today has 17 guest rooms and several classrooms and studios.

Video on Program
What to See in Tuscany
Tuscany Photos

dusk mono lake
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 14-17, 2010

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.

These four 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.

death valley

Death Valley in Winter
January 15-18, 2011

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

hill lakeiguanas

Galapagos Photography Adventure (preliminary announcement)
March 11-21, 2011

Join us on a 7 day photographic excursion to Ecuador's Galapagos Archipelago explored with photographer Stephen Johnson. A 12 person catamaran will be our home and vessel, with a journey through one of the wonders of the world.

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



PhotoPlus New York City
October 27-30, 2010

12 Things to Improve Your Photography
Thursday, October 27, 2010. 1:15pm-3:15pm


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

Photography And The Environment: Education Night talk
Marin Photography Club November 9, 2010 6:30pm

Marin Power Squadron Building, Hamilton Field, Novato, CA


Class Visits

Many of my fellow photography instructors have brought their classes by the gallery and studios for talks over the years. I realized I had never made this aspect of our activities here public, so here it is:

We welcome photography classes to visit our studios and galleries.

At The Studio Gallery

Galleries open by appointment. 650 355-7507.



Feature Story in the last issue of Studio and Location Photography. April 2009

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs

f #37: Witnessing and Holding the Beauty in Landscape Photography -- An Interview with Stephen Johnson

Guest appearances on Bert Monroy's Pixel Perfect Web TV Series.
Episode 103

Episode 104

O'REILLY podcast
MacVoices Podcast
MacEdtion Radio
DIMA Podcast
Photoshop World Podcast

tsj interview pix

Photoshop World: March 2008 Interview


Parks Book Interview with Dianne Pitman. May 2008


Inside Digital Photo by Scott Sheppard: Stephen Johnson. Sept. 2008


Book Reviews

Barnes & Noble Review: From Our Editors
This is a passionate, deeply personal guide to digital photography by a true legend in the field. If you've been fortunate enough to participate in one of Stephen Johnson's seminars or to view his breathtaking national parks landscapes, you know his book has the potential to be truly extraordinary. And so it is.Johnson teaches sophisticated technique without ever losing track of art. You will learn powerfully important things about digital sensors and high dynamic range photography; about multi-exposure panoramas and scanning; about tone, layers, and Photoshop curves; about Camera RAW Workflow and honest restoration.He roots digital photography deeply in its historical context without ever losing sight of the present -- or the future. He also captures the deep importance of digital photography -- and its ethical implications -- without ever becoming pretentious. And the images? No words suffice.

-Bill Camarda, from the November 2006 Read Only

Book Comments online

"Steve Johnson, one of the true visionaries of the digital photography era, offers us a technical tour de force and passionate artistic overview of the possibilities inherent in this new medium. On Digital Photography should be required reading for every aspiring photographic artist."

-Ted Orland, photographer & writer

...As Johnson says at the books very beginning in a Note from the Author: “I have often also been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and the heart behind the imagery.” Indeed and at the book’s end he uses this frustration to deliver hugely enlightening home run. The book itself is an artistic treasure with a very meaningful subtitle: Text, Photography and Design by Stephen Johnson. Johnson obviously demanded freedom to create. Tim O’Reilly did well when he granted Johnson’s wish. Quite simple the best photography book I have ever seen.

-Gordon Cook's Collaborative Edge
September 9, 2006


Printers I'm no longer using are being Donated to educational/charitable or government organizations. Send an email. All working when last used. Must pick up.

  • Epson 9000 (dye inks and Lyson grayscale set included)
  • Epson 9500
  • Epson 10000


Printers being replaced:

  • Epson 2200 $300
  • HP 5500 Color Laser $1500

Featured Products


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

graycap penguin

Matting and Framing DVD

A one-hour video demonstrating how to prepare, measure, cut your matts, label and frame photographic prints.

To order

gray cap


gray acr

A Photographer's Journey DVD

A Photographer's Journey is an 8 minute mini-documentary on landscape photographer Stephen Johnson's ground-breaking all digital photography in America's National Parks, With a New Eye. Produced by Apple Computer in 1998.

Additional Features

  • Parks Project Gallery

More info

To order


Visit Our Online Store

We continue to offer a wide variety of Steve's posters, books, notecards and a video or two from our Products page.

There is also a new page devoted just to books and one devoted just to products from our national parks project, With a New Eye.

Please take a look and browse. There are many one of a kind items there, available nowhere else.


The Bookstore  

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

There is something for everyone in this beautiful and definitive guide for digital photography enthusiasts, from cutting edge camera and software techniques to engaging discourse on the history and future of digital photography. Published by O'Reilly, 2006. 320 pages, over 700 color and duotone illustrations.


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.


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 and critical 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.


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

By appointment only.
$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 CS4 or Adobe Lightroom 2 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


Stephen Johnson Editions

  • 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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Last updated on August 5, 2010 . Mail comments to:
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