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death valley

Hills and Sky from Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013. Canon 1Ds III. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Death Valley Workshop January 10-13, 2015.

Welcome to the December 2014 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

On the road to New York and Michigan since the last newsletter, both bringing great experiences. The New York City trip was particularly moving visiting our favorite van Gogh at MOMA and the World Trade Center Site. Planning for the next trip, off to our Winter in Death Valley Workshop in early January.

We're planning some great workshop trips for 2015, including New Zealand. Our commitment deadline on that one is January 15 so let us know quickly if you would like to join us in beautiful New Zealand. The trip includes a helicopter ride over Fox Glacier.

This month's View From Here column discusses some recent exhibition impressions, travels and new photographs. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section is on paper photo corners.


photo review

Steve with Fine Art Printing class students and guest Ted Orland. 2014.
Photo by Fiona McDonnell.

Scholarships and Mentoring

As part of our ongoing commitment to photographic education, there is one student scholarship spot in many of our classes. Please pass the word along.

For discounted time studying with Steve, keep in mind our Mentoring Program.

With all of our busy schedules and limited budgets, destination workshops or classes become a challenge, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or feedback on some new work. We want to remind you of our Virtual Online Consulting Program. This service allows all of you out there around the globe to consult online live with Steve on technical, aesthetic and workflow issues using Skype and your webcam.

Our Essays and Tutorials from the past couple of years can now be found on Google Blogger.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the new Panoramic Prints we've added to the National Parks Gallery, and the Exquisite Earth exhibition with its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1. We invite you to join us on a workshop, rent lab space, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer. We value your input.


Workshop Testimonials

FEATURED PRINT December 2014


Moonrise Over Mono Lake. 2014.
Canon 5D III

Moonrise over Mono Lake. 2014.
8 seconds, ISO 1600 f3.5
Canon 5D Mark III

11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

Stars still shining and moon rising in the east over Black Point on Mono Lake's north shore.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Death Valley in Winter January 10-13, 2015
Yosemite in Winter January 31-February 2, 2015
Image Editing February 7-10, 2015
Graduate Study Days February 20 & 21, 2015
Color Management for Digital Photography March 7, 2015
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on March 14-17, 2015
Maui 2015 Workshop April 18-21, 2015
New Zealand July 20-27, 2015

printing class

March 2014 Printing Class. Photo by Fiona McDonnell

Speaking Events (see below)

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Tower Two Fountain. World Trade Center Site. 2014


New Photo Link

World Trade Center Two Memorial Fountain.
2014. Canon 5D III.

Click to order a print




Freedom Tower. New York City. 2014.

by Stephen Johnson

A Few Days in New York City: Photo Plus, a few Museums and Ground Zero

When we returned home from our late October New York trip, the short five days there was filling my mind...

Late October

Just saw the Sabastiao Salgado show "Genesis" at ICP (the International Center of Photography) in New York. The places and moments he held showed dedication and talent. His ambition and desire to make a difference was wondrous. This is a must see show, or if that is not possible, then get the book. The exihbition is up through January 11, 2015.

As the above words make clear, I was greatly impressed. At the same time I left with a feeling of disconnect. Salgado's gritty black and white high-contrast look at the world was unifying for this exhibition, however, it is not the planet earth I see. I love black and white photography, and in many ways loved this show. But my experience of many of these places is so different, the color itself being so seductive, that my emotional response was held back.


It is very true that an artist must react however their aesthetic moves them, and Salgado has made many memorable and important photographs. There are many here. His output and photographic career rise high in my esteem. But I almost felt as though I was looking at another planet, not earth.

Of course I couldn't help but wonder how this line of thought jives with the influence and admiration I have for Ansel Adams' dramatic B&W landscapes that so moved me that it helped influence my commitment to photograph. I can't say that black and white landscape work in the 1930s and in the 2000s are really any different in their distance from the human vision reality.

Maybe the times we are in now gives me a different view. Perhaps the material and technology we have available now makes more realism possible to hold of this magnificent earth. I know the constituency for land conservation has changed, and building public support is ever more critical. I know the hyper-saturated digitally enhanced color views we now see are often counter-productive in their unreality. Perhaps I also sense it is long past time to move on from dark black and white views of the world being so dominant.

Yet I still love black and white photography. I often ask my students if they love black and white, then perhaps they should consider making all photographs in black and white, unless the color is actually important to the image. It starts to separate common place color from extraordinary color, removing what I call the facade of ordinary. Additionally, black and white's added abstraction often makes the photograph more about design, pushing it into art rather than only record.


I also saw some very large prints on display while I was in New York. They planted an idea I had to act on when I got home. I've made very large prints for a long time, usually from very large-format cameras of files like the BetterLight Scanning back on my 4x5. I do not generally make large prints from moderately sized files or sensors. They just don't normally hold up very well.

As I am already in the middle of making a show of 40 inch wide prints from my Canon cameras for the Life Form exhibition, I came home determined to try something even larger, more akin to my large-format landscape work. Just to try.


Steve and New Big Print. Pacifica. 2014

After a few stumbles, I ended up with a 60 inch print from a new photograph I made last May. We were kind of knocked out about it and decided we must get it up on the wall. So even though premiering the new exhibition is still months off, we're working on framing a the new big print for our Holiday Open House on December 13.

On news from the Life Form Project, I have been commissioned to create a Portfolio from the work and have made the initial choices of the photographs included. I am currently working on logo and box design and will make the 10 print set available for pre-order shortly. Of course, the best prices will be in the pre-order sets and the lower number first sold of the portfolio.


...continued top of right column


Towers and Museum at at World Trade Center Site. 2014

Also while in New York, we visited the World Trade Center site. I saw, for the first time, the new Tower completed with the fountains built on Tower One and Two sites memorializing the lost lives.

The memorials are an extraordinary site to see. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a very emotional experience. I will return many times I'm sure. There is too much to feel in any one visit.


Starry Night. Vincent van Gogh (1889) with X-rite Color Checker Passport. Museum of Modern Art. New York.

Fiona and I had to revisit our favorite painting, and being in NYC makes it almost criminal not see van Gogh's Starry Night. So, once again we walked to the Museum of Modern Art to feel the beauty and emotion of the painting, and this time, to make sure we also understood the color better. The X-rite ColorChecker Passport came to the rescue of color nuance held.


Over the Thanksgiving holiday we made a point of hiking the hills along the Pacific coast here in Pacifica where I live. It had been way too long since I had been on some of these trails, reminding me how we take for granted our immediate surroundings.


Harrier Hawk. Malagra Ridge. Golden Gate National Park. Pacifica. 2014.

We encountered two different hawks on those hikes, in two days. One we knew was a red tail on first glance, the other flew more like a falcon and we speculated it might be a Peregrine. As it turns out it appears to be a Northern Harrier Hawk.


Red Tail Hawk. Pacifica. 2014

The Red Tail Hawk experience was completely unexpected. As we arrived at a beach overlook, this beautiful bird flew right above us and landed in front of our car . As the camera was already set up from the hawk the previous day, all I had to do was grab it, turn in on and start pressing the shutter. Even the zoom was already set all the way in, as was continuous exposures and focus tracking.

It was breathtaking to see it so close, so casually, and so prepared. The photograph instantly made it into my 2015 Pacifica Calendar.

please email your comments to us



Consulting Programs and Speaking Events

Virtual Education: Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well. Readers of this Newsletter can still get a discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.

Our One on One Program links you up with Steve at his bay area studio, or when he is on the road near you. Keep an eye on when Steve will be near your town.

Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there over the next  few months, such as his up coming talks in New York City at Photo Plus.

  • Holiday Open House. Saturday December 13, 2014. Noon to 7pm.
  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display

Canon Sponsors Steve to speak at Universities, Colleges, Photo Groups and various events around the country. If you would like more information on arranging for Steve to do a Canon sponsored event, go to: Canon SJ EOL talks



Steve Lecturing at Photo Plus. New York City. October 2014.



Matting Photo Corners

I take matting and framing very seriously, even though I don't enjoy doing it. The permanence of the presentation must equal the beauty. For me, this carries through with a very traditional approach to matting and framing, acid free, nothing adheres to the artwork. Those are my mantras.

That has meant that my approach to matting of photographs does not involve mounting a print to board. I use over matts with photo corners holding the print in place, and the pressure of the over matt to hold the print in the photo corners.

Over the years, this has worked well, but the last few years have presented challenges. Primarily, traditional paper photo corners seem to have disappeared from the market, except for small old-style photo album types that are too small for my bigger prints.

The replacements I've been able to find, polypropylene and polyester corners, with acid-free self adhesive strips have not proven durable, and simply rip along their fold after time. It is not the adhesive that fails (I reinforce that with linen tape anyway), it is the fold of the plastic itself.

So I've gone back to making my own corners from an old scan or old photo corners I used to buy, or a new eps file I print and then cut out of acid-free paper. It's too much trouble, but it is solving the problem. They don't fall apart.

If you know of other options, please let me know. For now, here's a design, I hope it is helpful to you.

photo corners



You can also go with something much simpler, just cut a strip of acid-free paper into about a 1 inch by 4 inch strip, and fold a 45 degree angle up on each side to make a very simple corner.

photo corners


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

stitched landscape

Plastic Photo corner with Linen tape reinforcement.

photo corners

stitched landscape

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

gift certificate

Holiday Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.

2015 Pacifica Calendar

12 selections from Steve's Pacifica, CA work.

11" x 17"
Price $25.00

To order by credit card.




2014 Life Form Note cards
5x7 inches,

Click to Purchase

12 image Note card set with envelopes featuring photographs from Steve's new Life Form work.

Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press


National Park Note cards

note card

National Park Color Note card Set
Stephen Johnson
12 cards/envelopes $20 set

From "With a New Eye" Beautiful 300 line screen offset reproductions with envelopes in clear box. A great gift.




or call to order 650 355-7507



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

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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

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Last updated on December 12, 2014 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2014, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide