Arboretum, Lexington Kentucky. 2009. Canon 1Ds Mark III.

To sum up in one word: Superb! Going out with Stephen to photograph extraordinary sites at dawn and dusk made me rethink what and how I photograph… Stephen is a great teacher... continually attentive to student needs, always ready with suggestions for improvement, he is quite a presence. A week after the workshop my head was still spinning with ideas. I am deeply grateful to Stephen and my fellow participants for having made this trip so memorable.
-Andrew Stern

yosemite oaks

Dawn, Monument Valley. 2009.
Southwest Journey Workshop


Welcome to the December 2009 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

As seems usual lately, I've been on the road a bit, with lectures and photographic excursions to Pt. Lobos in Carmel, to Kentucky, Iowa and Washington DC. The Canon Explorers of Light lectures have been keeping me quite busy this fall. Let us know if you would like me to come and speak in your area. Canon likes to see about a 200 person audience.

This month's View From Here column, Seeing, Not Thinking, lifts ideas and thoughts from my composition lectures. I hope it is a useful exploration for you.

Our workshop program continues on, with the Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on Workshop December 10-13 being the last class of 2009. It currently has two places left, so sign up quick!

The Winter and Spring schedule includes the new Photographers and Photoshop Series starting January 16. This class is specifically designed to get people up to speed on finishing a digital photograph, skills I clearly see that need addressing.

A full moon will add to our experience this year in the Death Valley in Winter Workshop, scheduled for January 28-31, 2010.

Our Winter schedule includes a Yosemite in Winter Workshop and a Highway One San Francisco South class.

For the Spring, we have added a rare 3 days at Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. I hope some of you can join us this winter and spring for some of these offerings.

On another subject, we are down to the last two copies of my 2003 Limited Edition Portfolio 1 of Selections from With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project. This hand-bound set of 17 pigment prints is an edition of 13 copies. Only 2 of the 13 are still available.


Workshop Testimonials


Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on. Last chance to Register!

Printers Available for Donation!

Intern and Scholarship Programs

Video of Steve's Maine Media Workshops Artist's Lecture. Thanks to Patrick Durante. Needs Apple QuickTime plug-in.

New DVD: Matting and Framing

December 2009


Supreme Court Steps. Washington DC. 2009.
9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

I love wandering around Washington DC. The green patina on these marble steps outside the Supreme Court caught my eye and stayed in my mind. My friend Brian Barger and I were out prepping for a planned spring workshop in and around the mall.

We're offering an 9x14 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 December 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by January 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.


Aeral, Pt. Reyes.

Seeing, Not Thinking

The most fundamental idea I try to communicate in my workshops is that photography is a language of light, not words. Its vocabulary is light, its form is light and the absence of light, its poetry is the design light creates.

People struggle with this. Not because it doesn't make sense, but because it is so hard to do. Our minds typically turn all mental input we can into language, and that process is very deeply engrained into the way we have learned to live. Yet we still have voluminous input that language doesn't address, and often feel stymied by that inability.

We also have a deep need to express ourselves, not only to comprehend our senses, but to reach out and share that sensory input with others. We bond, we make music, we make art, we try to fix those expressive impulses into tangible form. We bring other processes to bear, meditation, religion, an internal sense that there is more than we can easily take in, more than we can quite ascertain, and we are constantly trying to synthesize this disparate and sometimes contradictory input and suspicion into some more concrete form.

That is one realm of art, taking the seemingly intangible and creating something physically real, whether by meditation or reflection. We seek a kind of order and design out of complexity and chaos. We are uneasy dealing with logical contradictions of impulse and rationality in our mind, knowing those irrationalities are nonetheless part of our heart, part of who we fundamentally are. We seek means of expression and comprehension. Art has to embrace contradictions because it tries to express an aspect of who we are that is not about logic or rationality, it is at once about sincerity and deception, story-telling and deeply felt truths, about reaching toward summations of part of who we are unaddressed by other means.

Photography has unique power in this realm. It is both about real experience that can be rationally described, and also can encode human experience that defies words. In fact, in my judgment, that is one of its core capabilities, to suggest with literal, tangible tools, aspects of the human experience that are simply unaddressable by other means.

Art reaches toward expression of our deepest feelings and longing. The love we find in a partner's embrace, that shared commitment to another human being seems almost inexpressible. But art is there. We write songs, make poetry, devote enormous economic activity to exploiting the seduction that can feed it, but that love, desire and belonging is unique and singular, seemingly beyond expression in any other form. This is a pervasive aspect of the human experience and motivates both language and art, with both failing to truly manifest it. It seems beyond even art, but that sensuality and desire is at the very core of art.

Art tries to express these most essential aspects of being human from a different vantage point than language, and that is precisely why it is so powerful. The visual arts address our complex mental/emotional state with visual expression, rather than the vastly more familiar form of words, language and logic. In some ways music combines both, with rhythm, pitch and pattern defining sound, and creating intangible emotional reaction. The visual arts are often farther afield, often out on a tangent quite unique to themselves.

When I ask people to photograph what they see, not what they can name, it sounds easier than it is. Of course we don't see at all absent our mental interpretation of the images sent to our brain. So, in a sense, what I am suggesting to my students is to try to maintain the most primal visual process possible, because that will have the greatest potential for being held by the camera, which records light, as do your eyes, but exists independently of an individual human mind.

White Sands

The image seen is primary, fixing it with clarity of intent narrows others mental interpretations to a point, but the image will still be filtered through the viewer’s own experiences. This is why I also say it is important to draw the viewer into the experience by intrigue, perhaps by ambiguity, and at the very least through recognition that their participation in the comprehension of your image will always occur. It does matter how much freedom you allow for that to happen, and how much you can manage to tap their own imagination.

It also matters that you be as precise as possible in your execution of the photograph. There really is no room for sloppiness and casual concern for inclusion/exclusion if you are sure of your intent. I recently told my students I wanted them to be "ruthless about exactness." Care in execution matters. Wondrous serendipity happens, but intensely seen images communicate with power far more often.

Iceberg, Antarctica

In my composition lectures I try to emphasize simplicity, design, sensuality and abstraction. I suggest that we are imposing a frame around a piece of our visual experience that has drawn us in, and that it is a sense a little visual universe we are creating that attempts to find significance, simplicity out of complexity, order out of chaos, refuge out of a state of being overwhelmed. Of course, sometimes the chaos is the point and disturbance is a needed response, but considering these intents and creating approaches that enable them is essentially the core of developing a vision and style.




On another front entirely, check out this link to a video of a light painting at the University of Kentucky on November 4th. I was there for this and it was real kick.


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.

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 are 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

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

We're restarting our photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops. To start, we will be gathering applications from qualifying college photography students who would like to join us on a workshop.

We will be developing an application page, hold received applications, then choose awards as spots become available. Let people know who you think might be interested.

For applications, please email: info@sjphoto.com

Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
December 10-13, 2009
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.



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

January 16-17, 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..

death valley

Death Valley in Winter
January 28-31, 2010

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



Yosemite in Winter
February 13-15, 2010


Winter in Yosemite Valley is a transformed world. Trees are wet and dark, the oaks are bare. The cliffs are blanketed with snow. Weather moves through in waves of clouds and mist. Ponds and river edges are frozen. There is usually snow on the valley floor. Visitors are dramatically fewer in number.

Our four days together will likely be cold, but we will no doubt be warmed by the special beauty that winter brings to this grand valley. Although we will drive to basic locations, I hope our basic mode of transportation through the valley will be our feet. There is really no other way to come to know a place.





Highway One and the San Mateo Coast
March 13-14, 2010

Optional extra day at Pt. Lobos March 17

The coastline of San Mateo County is one of the most beautiful stretches of land and sea anywhere. From eroded, rocky shorelines, to cliffs, long beaches, redwood forests and small towns, this coast is complex and varied. We'll spend the day roaming the coast and mountain roads, stopping at state parks, county parks and checking out the lunch options along the way.

The workshop 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. Our concentration will be on controlling your camera's operation to achieve your desired technical results, while building composition and visual skills to make the photograph what you want it to be. Digital exposure and dynamic range, composition, emotion and amazement-all will be part of our 2-day excursion into the evolving world of digital photography.


Pt. Reyes National Seashore
May 15-17, 2010

This three-day workshop includes field instruction, critiques, and discussion of composition, digital camera characteristics and exposure. Individualized instruction is designed to accommodate beginning and advanced students. The weekend will mix walking and driving, exploring the trails, beaches and rural countryside of the park. We will visit the windblown Point Reyes headlands that juts miles out into the Pacific, offering ocean views found nowhere else. Time will also be spent in the forest, looking for form and design in the rich flora.

A beautiful coastal forest, isolated undeveloped beaches and views encompassing hundreds of square miles of land and sea will be the rewards of this weekend at Point Reyes. This dynamic landscape promises an intensive and interesting three days on northern California’s rugged coastline.

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


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

The New Photograph: Stephen Johnson

Society for Photographic Education, Western Regional Conference
Oakhurst, CA
Saturday December 5, 2009, 10am


Printing Industries of America Color Management Conference
Scottsdale, Arizona
Photography Session with Stephen Johnson
Real World RAW from Large Format to Digital SLRs
Monday, December 7, 2009. 10:00-11:30 am


At The Studio Gallery

Galleries open by appointment. 650 355-7507.

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.



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

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs

Podcast #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 michelle@sjphoto.com 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.


We've sent you this newsletter because, at some point, you told us you were interested in hearing from us.

If you'd like to unsubscribe, change your email address, or give us comments about the newsletter, please send a note to lists@sjphoto.com.

To subscribe to the sjphoto-news mailing list
web: http://sjphoto.com/mailman/listinfo/sjphoto-news

To communicate with us regarding the list, email: sjphoto-news@sjphoto.com

Newsletter Archive

Last updated on December 2, 2009 . Mail comments to: info@sjphoto.com
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2009, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.