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Trees and Ridgelines. Pacifica. 2014. Click to order a print. Next Workshop :Yosemite in Winter February 22-24, 2014

Welcome to the February/March 2014 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Hard to believe its already February, much less nearing March. With so little evidence of winter here, it was even harder. Some rain came and went, it seemed a bit more like February for a few days. The new year moves forward, and I am working on longer term planning and infrastructure, getting a number of things simplified and streamlined. It feels a bit like New Years Resolutions combined with Spring Cleaning. I hope your 2014 is going well.

This month's View From Here column Color from the Real World Through Your Camera to Print. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section updates our Digital Exposure Tutorial.



Giant Sequoia in Mariposa Grove. Yosemite. 2007.
Yosemite in Winter Workshop February 22-24, 2014

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 February/March 2014


Foggy Dusk on Cliffs. Devil's Slide. 2013

Coyote, Panamint Valley. Death Valley National Park. 2014
Canon 5D III

9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

We saw this fellow on out on the highway some distance away, flirting with cars and no doubt wanting food. A companion was off in the brush. Clearly people have been feeding them. We worried about these two as we headed on down the road. Coyotes on the highway wanting food from people. It sounded like a bad combination. Even stopping for a moment worried us as we didn't want to encourage any more acclimation to humans and cars.

2014 Workshop Schedule
Yosemite in Winter February 22-24, 2014.
Digital Photography Series: Introduction to Digital Photography Lecture. March 11, 2014
Digital Photo Image Editing March 8-11, 2014
Coastal Journey: On California's Highway One March 15-16, 2014
Pt. Lobos and Carmel. April 5-7, 2014
Digital Photography Series: Raw Photo Processing Day. April 19, 2014.
Guilin China  May 7-17, 2014

Digital Photography Series:
Photoshop Editing for tone and Color using Adjustment Layers with Selections and Masks. May 31, 2014

Raw to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp June 2-6, 2014
Digital Photography Series: Beauty in Photography: Inspiration and Composition. June 14, 2014
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on June 19-22, 2014
White Mountains and the Full Moon. August 8-11, 2014 (in planning, email us)
Southwest Journey September 7-18, 2014
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 11-14, 2014
Speaking Events (see below)

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dawn dv

Dawn, Dante's View. Death Valley. 2014


New Photo Link


Dawn, Dante's View. Death Valley. 2014.
Canon 5D Mark III


The browns, blues and merging first light drew me to this to share this month.

digital path poster

The Digital Path. 2006.

by Stephen Johnson

Color from the Real World Through Your Camera to Print

I've seen some online discussions lately about cameras, raw, color spaces and printing. So, I thought I would go through my best understanding of what is happening where, and why.

First of all, every camera has a fixed set of color capabilities, a range of light and color it can record from the real world. We can call this the camera's color space. This can be mapped by a Monochrometer, a spectral measuring device that can map a recording devices' color "vision." This is quite a different thing than profiles that come with your camera, or photographing even a pigment target like the X-rite ColorChecker, which although deeply useful, does not create a real characterization of how your camera sees, but rather how your camera sees the ColorChecker. Monochrometer derived profiles are generally not available for your camera.

color checkerlichen

X-Rite ColorChecker (left) X-Rite ColorChecker SG (right)

I believe even the much more detailed and wider contrast range of the Digital ColorChecker SG cannot map how the camera can actually record the real world. There are people that disagree with me on this. There is even software that creates what are called Camera Profiles with standard ColorChecker and these expanded targets. There are a number of problems with these, not the least of which is that it is not really possible to construct a reflective target that maps the full range of what a camera encounters in the real world. These target-based profiles can be very useful in the limited and controlled lighting conditions of studio photography.

.A raw file from a camera should basically preserve the unprocessed camera color space at whatever bit depth the camera's Analog to Digital Converter is capable of (generally 12 to 14 bits in most cameras today). However, the minute we look at the file as an image in a raw processor like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, we are interpreting that camera's raw color space into color derived from an interpretation map of how that camera recorded the ColorChecker. While viewing the file, we are operating in the raw processor's color space (in Camera Raw and Lightroom a linear ProPhotoRGB), and viewing our interpretive judgments through a monitor profile. Hopefully this is a wide gamut monitor (at least Adobe RGB capable) regularly calibrated with good hardware and software, such as X-Rite's i1 Profiler.

On the camera, despite photographing in a raw mode, you are NOT looking at the raw file on the camera's screen. You are looking at a processed file, normally a jpeg, created from the raw data passed through the Picture Settings (Canon), Picture Control (Nikon) or other such in-camera processing scripts. The camera histogram is also drawn from this jpeg file, not the raw data, which brings up an additional consideration on digital exposure I've discussed elsewhere and in the tutorial below.

In the raw processor, you are NOT looking at the raw file, you are viewing an interpretation of that data, subject to the camera starting point (often called profiles, but they are not) with all of the raw processor's presets modifying that interpretation.

As we move through an editing lesson, people do often ask to see the original raw file. But of course, you can never see the raw file, you are always seeing an interpretation. The raw file is basically an uninterpreted stream of data much like an undeveloped negative. It was recorded by an image recording device, and it has the potential to became an image, but only when "developed" into an interpreted file.

What people are generally asking for, as am I, is to see how their raw processing interpretation began in that particular raw processor, so that interpretive decisions, defaults and other image processing impositions can be examined and determined to be appropriate or not, and unwound and then re-interpreted into the desired result.


...continued top of right column

Out of Raw, Color Now Defined

Once out of a raw processor, as a rendered image, generally a form of tiff, opened in Photoshop, or in a printing pipeline from Lightroom, Capture One or Apple's Aperture, the file is no longer in a raw state, it has been rendered into precise interpreted spectral values, synthesized pixels from the Bayer Pattern filter-set on most cameras, and from whatever bit depth the camera produced into either 8 or 16 bits of interpreted image data. Every color in the image now has real meaning, and is managed by software that understands those meanings and can convert them into useful images, whether on-screen or to a printer.

Photoshop is my place of choice to finish the editing of a photograph that a raw processor begins. It is my most trusted place for the rendering of the photograph's digital data onto the screen and to translate the color out to a printer.

steve 2004


Color Management:
A Method of Converting from One Set of Color Capabilities to Another

Overall, color management is simply a method of converting one set of color capabilities to another. Beginning with the camera converting the real world into its own ability to record what passed through the lens, to Raw interpreters converting camera data with our feedback (viewed through a monitor) into precisely rendered color in well defined color spaces (sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB) and then on to a conversion of that now rendered color into what a particular printer can print.

Good Monitor Profiles

A photographer's absolute necessity starting point must be a hardware calibrated monitor, using at least a colorimeter measuring device and good profiling software. I am currently using X-rite's i1 Profiler Pro with the i1 Display Pro colorimeter.

In that software you should have to choose a color of white (for me 6500K), a brightness value (now usually 120cd/sq.m for most LCD screens) and a brightness curve known as gamma (now usually 2.2).

Printer Profiles

There are a lot of misconceptions that have grown up along this 20 year journey through color management. Some confusion comes from problems we once had no real solutions for, perhaps requiring work-arounds at one point, then invented around by the very core technology.

Out of gamut warnings and impulses to edit color to fit a printer is one of those outmoded workflows. There are many colors we can create in our cameras and through editing that do not exist on a printer. The job of printer color management is to convert (gamut map) with good printer profiles, those out of gamut colors into what the paper/printer/inkset/settings can print. You do not have to edit out-of-gamut color out of your photograph, it is the job of color management to convert image color into what the printer can print.

Of course, printer profiles are not perfect. Small errors in printing the targets and measuring the results can cause problems. Individual profile creation software packages vary in quality, and the table-based calculations can create their own color conversion errors. To a point, the more patches measured the better, multiple measurements reduce error, and iterative profile creation can hone in on inaccuracies and minimize them. I usually tell my students that a good printer/paper profile ought to get you 90-95% of the way toward an accurate print, with hand-tweaking the file often necessary to get the best print you can make.

Photographs and Text Copyright ©2014 by Stephen Johnson.
All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Please write if you would like a fully illustrated printed versin of this article. If there is sufficient interest, we will make them for $5 each.



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 Long Island, NY, New York City and Rockport, Maine.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display
  • PFLI Photographic Federation of Long Island
    Spring Spectacular
    April 27, 2014. 9:30am

    Suffolk County Community College
    Brentwood, Long Island, NY
  • B&H Photo. April 29, 2014.
    New York City
  • Rockport Maine: July 1, 2014 7pm
    Artists Talk at the Maine Media Workshop

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-sponosred event, go to: Canon SJ EOL talks


Steve Lecturing at the George Eastman House Museum of Photography. June 2012.


Updated Digital Exposure Tutorial


What You See May Be Far Less than What the Camera Can Hold

Of course, using the camera histogram so carefully does call into question another issue. If we set our camera to Raw capture, and since the raw file is unprocessed data, how do we see the preview on the back of the camera and a histogram?

Well, the camera converts the Raw data to a JPEG with whatever picture processing setting may be dialed into the camera. Naturally, these settings are pre-set to be fairly aggressively contrasty as people like punchy images.

High contrast settings in the JPEG processing essentially pushes the resulting histograms out in both directions, much like an expanding bellows. This adds contrast and perception of potential clipping of shadows and highlights to your experience of the raw exposure now pushed through JPEG processing.

A simple change to the JPEG processing controls make the resulting histogram much more representative of the Raw data capture capabilities of your camera. Lower the Contrast in Picture Processing controls to the lowest contrast possible, and presto, chango, your histogram will no longer be dramatically clipped from the raw data capture dynamic range.

Of course, your JPEG previews will look grayer, less punchy and for many, less emotionally satisfying on-site. The pay off is better understanding of where shadow and highlight detail is held and clipped in the Raw file, giving you more informed decision making in the field exposure.

Digital Exposure and Histograms whole tutorial.


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts


Example: Canon Picture Style Controls


Example: Canon Picture Style Controls Detail Set with Contrast dialed all the way down from middle "0" to the most "Minus" setting

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Product

2014 Life Form Notecards
5x7 inches,

Click to Purchase

12 image Notecard 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 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 20, 2014 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2014, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide