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San Pedro Rock. 2016. Canon 5DSr. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Black and White Printing February 27-28, 2016.

Welcome to the February 2016 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

We had a great time photographing in Death Valley on my January winter workshop. It was a good, solid four days of immersion in the light and color of Death Valley's geology and space. I decided to make the journey home a little adventure too, so went up the eastern Sierra, beneath Whitney at dawn, through Mono Lake and over the snowy mountains.

This month's View From Here column features some photographs and experiences from my recent Death Valley workshop. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section talks about the sheer volume of work a photographer can produce as opposed to what we can understand.


  • 2016 Winter/Spring Workshop Schedule has been posted with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

    Black & White Conversion & Printing February 27-28, 2016. Explore black and white printing in the digital age. Steve came of age as a classical black and white landscape photographer, steeped in the world of large-format photography and years in the darkroom. He worked hard and early on pioneering the development of high quality digital photography technology. This black and white class takes advantage of that groundbreaking work and leads students down a path of classical black and white printmaking beauty. One-day add on for extra lab time. (only 2 spots left)

    Winter Wings Festival Feb. 12-14, 2016
    Klamath Falls, Oregon

    • Keynote: Riding the Bleeding Edge of Digital Photography – A Landscape Photographer in the Digital Age
    • Fine Art Pinting Lecture

    The Golden Gate: March 19-20, 2016. A two day digital photography workshop exploring San Francisco's Golden Gate. We'll spend time in the Presidio with its tremendous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point with its spectacular views of the bridge, the Marin Headlands with Point Bonita Lighthouse, views along and San Francisco's ocean headlands of Land's End and the Sutro Baths near the restored Cliff House and its historic Camera Obscura. Much time will be spent walking and looking, knowing we will be in the area for awhile, giving you the freedom to explore, with great on-site help from Steve.

  • 2016 Pacifica Calendar now available.

photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his December Image Editing Workshop.
Photos 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 our Newsletter Archive and some 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 2016


Clouds, Death Valley. 2016.

Clouds. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr

11x13 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

As we were preparing for our walk into Golden Canyon, we were taken with these long clouds stretching out along the east west lines of Death Valley.

2016 Workshop Schedule
Black & White Conversion & Printing: February 27-28, 2016
Golden Gate: March 19-20, 2016
Highway One: May 14-15, 2016
RAW to Print Bootcamp: June 6-10, 2016
Printing Photographic Beauty: July 10-16, 2016. Maine Media Workshops
Vision and Craft Bootcamp: October 2-8, 2016. Maine Media Workshops

printing class

Waiting for Moonrise on Cadillac Mountain. Acadia Workshop. 2015. Peter J Sucy..

Speaking Events (see below)

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Ubehebe Wall. Death Valley. 2016. Canon 5Dsr

I'm always drawn to the strange eroded crater sides of Ubehebe Crater. The 2000 year old crater blasted through an amazing layering of land formations now revealed. In soft light, they are clear and deeply intriguing. In sunlight, the shadows of the erosion often overwhelm them.

I was careful in my exposure and processing to keep the emphasis on the layering and minimize the visual impact of the shadows by processing them to be as open and detailted as possible.


Purchase a print of this photograph


Brush and Hillside. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

by Stephen Johnson

A Death Valley Journey

The transition from Antarctica to my workshop in Death Valley in just a few weeks had its strange impacts. For all of its exotic and otherworldly qualities though, Antarctica is a less obviously complex place, the ice hides much. Death Valley is folds of earth, huge expanses in a startling palette of earth color. I find the dusty, muted color deeply appealing.


Badwater. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

A Death Valley Workshop is always a chance for me to share my love of this place. Helping people find their way through their photographic curiosities remains a priority for me. Thus I found myself luckily back in Death Valley in January for my winter workshop.

The sights from Dante's View began our first dawn, up early so we could catch the full moon setting into the Panamint Mountains. The moon set turned out to be wonderful to see but among the least interesting views. The desert valley, 5000 feet below, with its abstract salt washes and to the east, the successive hill lines were lovely.

ice dawn

Successive Ridgelines looking east from Dante's View. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

The distances in Death Valley are immense. From Dante's View, you can see about 150 miles, the stretch of the valley north to south, the White Mountains to the Northwest and into Nevada to the east.

ice dawn

Death Valley from Dante's View. 1995.
Betterlight Scanning Back.



Wildflowers on Split Cone Dome. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

Wildflowers had broken out in the few days before we arrived for our workshop. On a park ranger's advice, we headed south and stopped at a number of flowering fields along the highway. The blooms were still sparse, but beautiful.

As we neared a highway road closure, we saw a reddish dome off in the distance with flowers striping its slopes. I had a hope that the southern end of the West Side Road was nearby, and that perhaps if we followed it, we might end up near the dome. That's exactly what happened and we spent over an hour wandering on the eastern edge of the formation.



Cumulus Towers. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

I do try to schedule my workshops during the full moon for the connection to our planetary companion. Moon rises and moon sets then become an integral part of our experience. They are never the same, and always special even if the amazingly star-filled sky is dimmer in the moonlight.

Our moon rise took awhile from its predicted time to climb above the hills, and was soon obscured by clouds after rising. While we were waiting, rain was falling under some growing clouds to the north. Above the rain, the cloud formations made me imagine some strange billowing medieval castles.



Distant Rain at Sunset. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

Rain on the desert is always special. We felt a few droplets, the source was not close. The clouds and orange lit horizon made the scene special. The only compositional balance I could strike was a kind of centering of the image around a peak nearby.



Hill and Clouds. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

I picked a favorite area of mine for the moon rise, some elephantine hills on the road to Scotty's Castle. The distant rain in the desert was very beautiful but so were the sunlit hills right in front of us. It was enjoyable to watch them turn blue as they lost their glow in the shadow of the Panamint Mountains at sundown. They became body-like silhouettes in front of the rising moon over the next few minutes.


Moonrise. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr



Full Moon and Drifting Clouds.. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

Once the full moon appeared above the hills, it wasn't long before it rose into a bank of broken, moving clouds. But in that transition was a beautiful occluding of the big bright disk that kept it transforming and changing the light around us.

...continued top of right column of the essay


Salt Flats and Amargosa River. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

I never cease to be fascinated by the wild abstraction of the Death Valley salt flats that can be seen from Dante's View. In a wet year, like the present, the sinuous channels of water through soil and salt makes for some amazingly subtle and beautiful color.

I am almost always up at Dante's View in the cold because I love to watch the sunrise from up there. So it is also probably true that my explorations succumb to the cold, and are briefer than I would like, but the possibilities are wild and compelling.


Setting Full Moon and Contrail over Dunes. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

Death Valley's dunes, as always, were seductive, with sensuality and abstract design surrounding us. It is impressive that no matter how many times I've walked these sand hills, the experience feels fresh and engaging.



Dune Pattern. Death Valley. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

I can never quite resist coming up the eastern Sierra on my way home from Death Valley. Even if it is just a glance at the Whitney Crest about Lone Pine, the drive to Highway 395 is always worthwhile. Heading north is even better, taking 395 to the Alabama Hills just out of town, and then up the Owens Valley by Manzanar and through Bishop.



Whitney Crest and Alabama Hills at Dawn. Lone Pine. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

This year I decided to go all the way up through Reno to get back to the bay area. This gave me a chance to pass through some of my favorite places, like sacred Mono Lake, its surrounding Mono Craters and the views back into the basin from Conway Summit to the north.


Aspens and Mountain near Conway Summit. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


Brush. Mono Craters. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

It was a good trip, and a good rebuild of my needed connections to this country. Once again, photography was my vehicle for that journey.


Please let me know any comments you might have on this column.


Recently at SJ Photo

We had, what I believe to be, two very successful workshops in January, one in Death Valley and a Fine Art Printing Hands-on class in my studio.

Since returning from Antarctica and Death Valley, I've been working on the Virtual Pedro Point Project for the Pacifica Land Trust. I needed some field images, so went back out to the headlands, and of course, couldn't resist these big waves with their blow back crests. I was not out to photograph the waves, but San Pedro Rock (at the top of this newsletter), but the waves were so seductive.


Blow back Crest on Waves. Pacifica. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

On my Antarctica trip, I also had an exhibition of my work. It was quite a double take to look in one direction and see my prints, then turn my head and see the mountains and ice of Antarctica slipping past.



Stephen Johnson with his prints on exhibit. Antarctica. 2015.
Photo by David Gardner.

We hung a few prints from my new Life Form work, and a set from my digital national parks project, With a New Eye. Thanks to Dave Gardner and Reid Elem for all of the help in hanging the show as we sailed across the Drake Passage on our way to wonderland.

More than once on this voyage, I sat in the gallery, staring out the window, completely taken by the glaciers, mountains, whales and penguins, then stared across the room at my show. It was an experience I'll never forget. It was a sense of completeness and belonging that is part of what I live for.

Other News: The new 2016 Pacifica Calendar is still available in the gallery (just a few) and on line.



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.

  • 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 talk


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

Custom Workshop Scheduling

People often want to take workshops and the dates just don't match up with their schedules. Sometimes they watch the newsletter and webpage for years for their interest, free time and the workshop to all coincide. We've decided to be proactive in creating a forum for potential students to tell us what you need and when you can take a class. Please email us with workshop ideas and suggestions.

More formally, we are experimenting with a workshop poll to determine when interested people can make particular workshops they really want to take.

Currently we have up a few workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage

Too Much Work to Even See


Photography's ability to produce far more work than I can sometimes really deal with, falls right into one of my chief weaknesses, feeling overwhelmed by too many interests and possibilities.

How many wondrous images can a person actually take in? In the last fews days I've been out at the beach watching the waves a few times. The blow back on the wave crests were very special. Every moment was different, with no real way on anticipating what the next would bring. I set up my camera on a tripod, kept the head a little loose, and followed the moving crested waves with one hand on the tripod, the other one on the shutter which I just held down as the surf ballet moved through my frame.

Of course, the result was one session with 170 photographs, the first with 448. That is far too many photographs to understand, and it ends up being a superficial look through the photographs to pick out the most spectacular. i know I am missing many subtleties.

I believe I am mature enough about my work to pick a few and move on, but I do confess that I often feel I am missing more than I am seeing, even in my own work. I'm a privileged witness at the time, and I believe faithful witness. The moments reeling off in real time, steeped in the pleasure of seeing wonder is good, but after the fact, do get lost in the sheer volume of work.

I mentioned this same dilemma in a post regarding Antarctica just last month.

Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts


Waves in Adobe Bridge

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products


2016 Pacifica Calendar

2016 Pacifica Calendar

2106 Pacifica Calendar by Stephen Johnson. 12 photo calendar month pages plus 7 full page photos and Trail Map. 11x17 vertical. No hole punch.

Find out more on MagCloud



gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.


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


gift certificate

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.


gift certificate



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 9, 2016 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2016, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide