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Death Valley Storm clouds. 2013. Email to order a print. Next Workshop Yosemite in Winter. February 16-18, 2013..

Welcome to the February 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Looking forward to the Yosemite Workshop, and sharing my love of the park I know best, only 75 miles upriver from where I was raised, the place where I saw my first waterfall, my first wild deer, my first bear, where I first came to understand the meaning of grandeur...

This month's View From Here column narrates some recent journey's some Remarkable Light and Form. We hope you enjoy reading it and perhaps will send us some comments. Our Tutorial this month talks about HDR and the full moon.


  • 2 spots left in Yosemite in Winter Workshop next weekend, Feb. 16-18, 2013.

  • We have been finalizing itinerary details in preparation for our Alaskan Adventure Workshop August, 5-17 2013. This is an exciting journey to an unforgettable landscape, which never ceases to impress and inspire whether you are a first time or returning traveler. We will be moving about via trains, planes, and boats through Kenai Fjords, Denali and Katmai National Parks. These parklands are rich with color, wildlife, textures, abstraction and exciting compositional opportunities. Lodging and transportation seating fill up fast, so it would be wise to move quickly and join us on this great adventure.

  • New class after many requests: Large Format Digital Printing. March 23-24, 2013. This class is a great opportunity to work your photographs into impressive large-scale prints with great attention to detail and aesthetics. Individualized instructional attention and a print by print problem solving approach for each student, is always the standard for this workshop.

  • Don't miss the opportunity of joining us on our Ireland Workshop this Summer! see below.

  • New Prints on Display: For our Holiday Open House we prepared a new set of panoramic prints, even erecting a new floating wall and a well stocked bin of many unseen panoramic works. Come by and check them out when you can.

A trip to one of the true wonders of the world is coming right up with Yosemite in Winter workshop Feb. 16-18, 2013. There are only a few spots left.

The next section of our popular printing workshop Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on runs from February 23-26, 2013.


Don't miss the opportunity to join us on our Ireland Workshop this Summer! We are excited about our Summer 2013 Photography Workshop to Ireland's Spectacular West Coast July 21-31, 2013. This photography workshop on the emerald isle does all of the planning and itinerary work for you to maximize learning, exploration, comfort and enjoyment. Two veteran instructors, lodging, ground transportation, two meals per day and fun adventures are all included. My good friend Anthony Hobbs of Ireland's National College of Art and Design, will be co-leading this ten day immersion into the Irish landscape and culture. There are still some openings and now is the time to find great deals on air fares to Ireland when booking early. The small class size also makes this a wonderful opportunity, along with the goal of prioritizing friendly, interactive, personal and detailed hands-on instruction. Exciting field trips, on-site instruction, problem solving techniques and daily critiques are all fundamental to this workshop. Join us!

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 announced last fall.

Our busy schedules and limited budgets often keep us from destination workshops or classes, 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 February 2013


Clouds over Panamints, Dawn. Death Valley. 2013.

Dawn Death Valley. 2013
9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

bitter cold on Dante's View, with the light changing amazingly fast on this band of blowing clouds hanging on the Panamint Mountains...


Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Yosemite in Winter. February 16-18, 2013
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on February 23-26, 2013
Pt. Lobos and Carmel March 16-18, 2013
Large-Format Printing March 23-24, 2013

Highway One San Mateo Coast  April 20-21, 2013

Pt. Reyes National Seashore  May 4-6, 2013
San Francisco Digitally  June 1-2, 2013
RAW to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp June 10-14, 2013
Ireland 2013: July 21-31, 2013
Alaska's Parklands: August 5-17, 2013
Speaking Events (see below)

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Orange Burst on Cloud bank. Pacific Ocean. 2013.



...the light seemed gone for the evening, hidden behind a huge bank of clouds, when suddenly this light burst out on the horizon...



Hills, Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

Journey of Remarkable Light and Form

The last few weeks have given me the pleasure of witnessing some truly remarkable light. Spending some time at the beach, on our way to our Death Valley workshop, in the park itself, coming up the eastern Sierra and then a quick trip to Yosemite, all within the last few weeks.


Spectral Breakout on Lenticular Cloudbank. Dawn Lone Pine on the Eastern Sierra. 2013

Death Valley was a reminder of the beauty of desert and the wonder of it as a place. This year brought some rain, beautiful light and skies that frankly will take some time to sort out, there are so many photographs I am looking at with interest.

On our way home from Death Valley, we stayed over at Lone Pine to see the moonset on the eastern Sierra crest. The moon setting at dawn was wonderful, even if a bit cold. But behind us to the east, a lenticular cloud had formed that I turned a 600mm lens toward, very near the rising sun.

At first glace, zooming in on the cloud bank was dramatic. Unexpectedly, a wonderous rainbow like spectral breakout was suddenly visiable around the cloud. It jumped out at me, quite unbelievably. My first thought was that the color ring was some artifact of the long optic pointing so near the rising sun. Then, as we looked closer, with only our eyes, we could barely make out the exact same color breakout on the cloud's edge. Although visible in the photograph, the effect pales in comparison to seeing the real thing.


Radio Telescopes along Owens River. Owens Valley Radio Observatory. Big Pine. 2013.

Driving up the eastern Sierra in the Owens Valley, through Lone Pine and past Manzanar, we noticed some satellite dishes on the east side of the valley.  One of our Death Valley Workshop students mentioned a radio observatory on the east side, and we appeared to have found it.

We took the first way in, though it felt like a back way. We followed a dirt road across the desert leading us up to the Owens River, just opposite the telescopes. It was an unusual mix of form with the winter desert brush, cottonwood trees, river cutting through and the space age construct plucked down in the landscape.


Highway 395 above Conway Summit near Mono Lake. 2013

The following weekend we couldn't resist a quick trip to Yosemite. It's only a little beyond a planned trip to see my sweet 85 year old mother, which made it good loop of love and beauty. As is almost always the case about Yosemite, I was treated to scenes I never imagined and a slightly deeper understanding of this so familiar place, enrichening my mind and heart.


Tree and Mist. Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite. 2013.

The waterfalls and bellowing mist from them are always part of my delight in Yosemite. In fact, falling water is almost synonymous with Yosemite Valley. When mixed with ice and cold, it can be almost other worldly and surprizing. Part of the delight in wandering the planet with a camera is just such surprize, even in places we think we know well.


Snow Dune. Yosemite Falls. 2013.

The sheets of misty water draping over a dune of ice at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls was amazing to watch. The pattern changed with every moment, leading to many stills, and some very graceful video.


Ribbon Falls Rainbow. Yosemite. 2013.

In looking though the photographs made last weekend, when we did the short swing through Yosemite, it made me particularly grateful for our Yosemite in Winter workshop coming right up. I'm anxious to go back and spend a few days. I know many of the people coming to the workshop and a few days spent with some fine people in such a special place sounds really good.

...continued top of right column



Full Moon Setting over Eastern Sierra. HDR with Canon 1Ds III and 600mm lens. 2013.


Moonring and Jupiter over Paso Robles. 2013.

Along the Coast

A recent trip to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, brought another set of ongoing curiousities renewed. The Reserve is one of my local haunts here on the north peninsula coast near San Francisco. The extreme of compelling visuals I found those few weeks ago drew me deeply into a diversity of natural form. From the brilliantly lit cliffs above the tide pools to the oh so blue sky through the trees, and the intricate alien form of tide pool life, particularly the anemones. I was entranced.


Cliffside. Fitzgerald Reserve. 2013

There are some places that keep drawing you back, some out of convenience because they are nearby, and some you go to great lengths for. This stretch of coast, from San Francisco south to Santa Cruz, remains a road of refuge and heart engagement for me.

The Highway One Coastal Journey Workshop April 20-21 seemed worth a mention with these photographs that have stayed with me these last few weeks.



Anemone. Fitzgerald Reserve. 2013

dv woorkshop

Death Valley Workshop 2013 Group Photo. Titus Canyon, Death Valley.

Our workshop Group Photo from Death Valley this year captured a moment of delight that in some ways summed up the wonderful light we had all day exploring Tutius Canyon, the road in from Nevada and wonderful Red Pass. We were contantly reaching for superlatives to describe what we were seeing, and feeling a heartfelt gratutude at being able to witness such beauty with the excitement at having a chance to photograph.

We didn't get everyone in the photo, but thanks to Fiona for capturing these wonderful expressions.

Irresistable Motion

Snow Dune Video. Yosemite Falls. 2013. Canon 1Dx, 600mm lens Stabilzed with YouTube Filter.

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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 year, such as Rockport, Maine in late June, Amherst, MA in July and Dublin Ireland in early August.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery

Millbrea Camera Club meeting at Stephen Johnson Photography.
February 21, 2013 at 7pm.

Photo Film Night: Dorothea Lange: Under the Trees 1965
Spring 2013

  • Chicago in April

    DuPage College. April 9. 7pm

    Columbia College. April 11, 7pm
  • Maine Media Workshops Artist Lecture.
    Rockport, Maine. June 25, 2013. 8pm
  • NECCC Photo Conference July 2013. Amherst, MA
  • National College of Art and Design
    Lecture. Dublin, Ireland. early August 2013.
  • Tualatin River Photographic Society
    Sherwood, OR, near Portland Oregon
    Saturday October 5. 7pm


For almost 20 years I've been talking about the special status photography holds in our mind, memory and perceptions of the world. Even with these long held beliefs, I was surprised by this article.

Check out this link to a BBC Article about Photoshop and Memory



The Moon and the Land

The recent full moon I witnessed over Death Valley and the eastern Sierra was a good teaching moment for me.

We get into habits, some of them dating back decades, and sometimes it takes awhile for those old habits to be challenged and supplanted by new and better ways of doing things.

The brightness difference between the full moon, which is very bright, and the rather dimly lit landscape below, can be a real photographic challenge. Although our eyes and mind rapidly adjust as we glance between the ever so slightly different locations in our gaze, the camera cannot. Timing a day before or day after the actual full moon can give you more light on the ground for exposures that are more manageable. But when confronted with what to do at a given moment, we witnessed a real challenge of extremes this past week.

In the days of film, we would have likely calculated how bright the moon was, assumed a N minus 2 or 3 development, and seen how much exposure we could capture of the ground. Then in printing, a really good job of burning in the moon would have probably also been necessary for the print. Some examples from photographic history do come to mind.

Last week, I instinctively just hand bracketed the exposures assuming I would put them together after the fact, as digital can often allow. But with the 600mm lens I had borrowed from Canon, the magnification was such that the time lag of manually adjusting the shutter speed and taking the second exposure allowed the moon to drift. Consequently, small differences in feature location between the exposures emerged with the long magnification that the lens provided.

The result was that very few of my photographs line up well. And this might be ok, but there were other factors I ran into, the glow around the moon itself that needed to be preserved as well as the color coming through in the sky around it.

My manual exposure changes were simply too different in moon location to do a standard HDR integration after the fact, although I'm still thinking that one through.

Doing a standard HDR integration should have been obvious to me at the time, and not unlikely what my students were already doing with their auto bracketing habits. I simply should have set up a bracketing sequence on the camera for a very wide range, and had the camera do a continuous stream of exposures to encode the range as automatically and as independently from any human jiggle and as close in time as possible. That would have minimized any difference in location of the moon relative to the proper exposure and the over-exposure of the image designed to record some ground detail. Then a standard HDR integration might have worked well.

In other words, I should have simply done an HDR set, and a standard HDR integration after the fact.


The moon exposure was f8 at 1/400 of second, the mountains below f8 at 1/8, six stops of exposure difference which is not an unusual spread for HDR at all.

The two images were opened into Photoshop Layers, aligned, and the moon shot masked to only let the moon through, with considerable work on the still imperfect mask. The lens exhibited some chromatic aberration not completely eliminated by the Adobe RAW controls, which had to be hand tweaked.

Although it seemed worth including here as an example, it is still very much a work in progress.

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop Featured Product

National Park Notecards

note card

National Park Color Notecard 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 February 13, 2013 . Mail comments to:
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