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Sentinal Meadow, Yosemite. Email to order a print. See our next workshop: Yosemite in Winter Feb. 4-6, 2012

Welcome to the January 2012 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

In Death Valley teaching, and working on this Newsletter.
I hope you all had a good New Years and are looking forward to 2012.
Much hope and promise lies ahead for me this year. I hope for you too!


This month's Newsletter's View From Here column reflects on Death Valley and Yosemite. We hope you enjoy reading it and perhaps will send us some comments. Our Tutorial this month goes over Basic Scanning Principles.

For anyone needing an introduction to digital cameras, we are offering our after Christmas lecture, Basic Digital Camera Use Thursday evening January 19, from 7-10.

The Yosemite in Winter workshop is coming right up on February 4-6.


Yosemite Falls. 2010

Our Photographers & Photoshop Series continues in February with the Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color Workshop February 11-12, 2012. This has proven to be a critical class for many as they work through the power of Photoshop to precisely edit their photographs.

Our next Fine Art Printing Hands-on class is March 3-6, 2012 which has just been added as the January session filled. Hope you can join us during these four days of hands on printing.

We have many great workshops for the Spring of 2012 Joshua Tree National Park, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and California's Highway One San Francisco South. Check them out!

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

The Summer Digital Bootcamp, From RAW to Print is now on the schedule for July 16-21, 2012 with an early enrollment discount..

In August of 2012 we will journey back to the land of fire and ice for a 10 day Photographic Expedition to Iceland.  The Exquisite Earth show we have at the gallery has some very abstract landscape photographs from Iceland and we are excited to announce that we will be going back!

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 need 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.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the Exquisite Earth exhibition, its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1, 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.

Workshop Testimonials



Blowing Snow and Shore. Lake Michigan. 2012.

Blowing Snow and Shore. Lake Michigan. 2012.
Canon 1Ds III
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

windblown snow on the great lake shore

Follow us onlinesjphoto twitter facebookwordprss


Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Basic Digital Camera Use: January 19, 2011, 7-10pm
Fine Art Digital Printing January 21-25, 2012 (now full)
Yosemite in Winter February 4-6, 2012
Photographers & Photoshop Series: Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color
February 11-12, 2012
Fine Art Digital Printing March 3-6, 2012
Joshua Tree March 10-12, 2012
Pt. Reyes National Seashore April 21-23, 2012
California's Highway One: San Francisco South May 19-20, 2012
From RAW to Print July 16-21, 2012.
Iceland. August 24-September 2, 2012


sleeping bear dunes


New Photo Link

Icicles on Railing. Lake Michigan. 2012.
Canon 1Ds III

almost like living forms, growing by the hours, the ice became ever stranger

Moonset over Panamint Mountains. Death Valley. 2012.

by Stephen Johnson

As I write, I'm out in Death Valley, between workshop sessions, pondering the new year ahead, my presence in this landscape and my movement around this planet in exploration.

In a place I've visited so often, like Death Valley, I wonder about even making new photographs, as I certainly have more than I'll ever use. But in the making is seeing first, and seeing something new with every visit is part of the wonder of this world and of photography. The variety of this place, its scale, its unexpected color and upheaved geology is truly remarkable.

As I think forward a few weeks to my Yosemite Valley in Winter workshop, that thought is even more prominent in my mind as I grew up near Yosemite and so much of what I think of as nature were experiences born there...those early backpacking trips with my friend Peter Mauffray, artist and musician, now gone, or my first memories of seeing deer, bear, and snow. The birth of my interest in landscape photography came from Yosemite, Ansel Adams' wonderfully inspiring and dramatic black and white landscapes. I clearly remember my first conversations with Ansel on the porch of the house behind the Ansel Adams gallery in the Valley, talking about the At Mono Lake Exhibition.

I am drawn to Yosemite in unique ways. It forces an instant re-apprecition of grandeur. It reminds me that even a famous and heavily visited place can remain full of solitude. It keeps me aware of the power of the earth's forces to constantly reshape itself and the tiny little window of time that our lives here can witness. Yosemite Valley fosters an appreciation of all of these things, and builds in the heart a unique place of personal memory and scale.

The park is remarkable. Lying at the heart of the 10 million year old Sierra Nevada range, glaciers have cut through its river valleys for over a million years. Yosemite Valley formed from a massive 4000 foot deep river of ice, slicing huge granite domes and carving today's valley. Yosemite Falls is 2425 feet tall, the highest in North America, and 5th largest in the world. El Capitain is the world's largest monolith of solid granite, its huge brother in the park, Half Dome is perhaps the most recognizable rock formation on the planet. Yosemite was set aside not only for its spectacular scenery but for its huge Giant Sequoia redwoods which were starting to be logged in the late 1850s and early 1860s.

Giant Sequoias, Wawona. Yosemite. 2008.

Photographically, Yosemite remains hard as the reality competes with the photographic history and our preconceived views. But I never find the photographs equal to the experience, and consequently keep getting pulled into reaching deeper into the being there to understand what I see and want to record. And I want to share what I've found...

I move around this great big world
see such beauty and intricacy
I want to hold it like some precious love
Let another soul see and believe

from Make the Art, 1999 by Stephen Johnson

Half Dome, Yosemite, 1996.

It is that sharing, that wanting to say "isn't this remarkable" that is the recurring theme for us as imagemakers. Our artistic vision may take many paths, but for me, that "remarkableness" is fundamental. It is at the heart of why I do straight photography, because it is my interest in this real world and its uncanny beauty, variety and nuance that continues to amaze me, and draw me in with my camera. It is almost as if the photographs become something other than a product from the experience, they become a constant suggestion of wonder, and reminder of our privilege in being here, being able to be witness.

...continued top of right column

duskTitus Canyon. Death Valley. 2012

Notebook Scribbles from Death Valley's West Side Road

The silence. The silence here is amazing, pervasive and feels profound. It is so unlike our normal worlds. I can hear the crinkle of paper in my hand, and the scratch across it of the pen as I write.

I'm looking into a 100 mile 360 degree space, almost devoid of human constructs, but full of earth upheaval and light-heat of our sun.

There is a low level, barely audible under-sound of distant wind rushing through endless canyons, almost a bottom-end shelf under which there is only real silence.

A raven suddenly appears squawking north through this huge valley. I wish I could inquire about its journey.

The earth has now dropped the sun below the mountains, with a huge cirrus arc rising above, stretching well beyond the zenith.

duskTitus Canyon. Death Valley. 2012.


A few things I would like you to keep in mind...

Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well, and although the initial discounts for early enrollments have passed, readers of the Newsletter can still get a 20% discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.


Dunes. Death Valley. 2012.


from the iphone memos (perhaps not profound, but fun to remember the things that come to mind):

sometimes you have to get to an edge to see new horizon


sharpening radius controls the width of the band of exaggeration


your position is as important as your curiosity


integrating the technical with the aesthetic in photography is often a process of finessing your way through a path of compromise


Basic Principles of Scanning

(excerpt from the book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography unreleased revised electronic version)

The following are some fundamental parameters to keep in mind as you are scanning your film. Remember, time and care invested up front not only protects your film, but results in a far more useful result. It is well worth the effort and time to make the best scan possible.

Everything is in the scan.

Straighten your original before scanning. Post-scan rotations other than 90° or 180° are time consuming and force image resampling (interpolation).

Dust the print or film (and the scanning glass on flatbed) before scanning. With film, extremely careful handling is very important.

Handle film with care. The original film is very precious, and it should be handled only by the edges and cleaned with film cleaner only if absolutely necessary. If canned air is used, be careful not to tilt or shake the can when spraying, as it can send out propellant and will fog your film. If there is something really nasty on the film that requires vigorous cleaning or rewashing, make the best scan you can first, then clean and rescan. This is a precaution just in case damage occurs from cleaning.

Warm up the machine. Most scanners need some warm-up time before the lamp stabilizes and the calibration procedure is accurate.

Make the best scan possible. Post-scan editing deteriorates the image (causing potential posterization) by stretching 8-bit 256 gray levels per channel to new values without necessarily filling in the gaps left behind (see, for example, the histogram below). If your scanner allows pre-scan color correction, use it to adjust your image to your needs. When necessary, it is better to make several scans to get the best scan possible than to heavily edit an 8-bit image after scanning.

Make the judicious pre-scan adjustments. Make sure your pre-scan adjustments aren't post-scan edits. Some scanning software can give you the impression that it is altering the way a scan is acquired, while, in reality, it is simply post-scan editing the image before allowing you to see it. Such adjustments are not usually effective, primarily because you could probably do a better job editing the image in Photoshop. Pre-scan adjustments are about controlling the conversion of the scanner’s data capabilities into a deep and editable archive file. This adjustment is usually accomplished in the A/D converter behind the CCD array, where analog data from the array is converted to digital data for the computer. It is much like adjusting the development of film to specific lighting contrast conditions of the scene. In high-bit depth scanners, this can essentially pull out of the scanner’s deep vision a result that may be almost finished.

Treat the scan as an archive. I recommend thinking of scanning as the creation of an archive of the image, capturing and holding the most information possible. Scan at 16 bits, use the highest optical resolution of the scanner, and be careful to preserve highlight and shadow detail. This can then function as your digital negative, from which all other edits and customizations will flow. Some photographers prefer to scan linear data preserving everything the scanner could in a somewhat raw form, skipping pre-scans adjustments, and doing all edits in Photoshop. As these files come in very dark, they can be a challenge to edit in Photoshop.


SilverFast, a great mulit-scanner Scanning software

Scan to the needed size and resolution. Acquiring more data than you need creates storage problems and slows down your computer. Acquiring less data than you need risks revealing pixels in your final halftone-screened image. Generally, you should choose 300 ppi as an accepted and mostly acceptable input ppi at your desired size. For 35mm film with its 1-inch height, that would take a 3000 ppi film scanning resolution to make a 300 ppi output scan at 8x10.

For halftone prepress needs, twice the ppi (1.5 works well) for whatever lpi halftone screen you intend to print. Watch out for scanning software that interpolates data. If your scanning software allows you to scan at a higher ppi than the scanner can see, it is creating—not imaging—those pixels. A scanner whose CCD is 400 ppi cannot acquire an image at 800 ppi without making up some information (such a scanner might scan 800 times an inch and only make up data in one axis). In general, scan at no higher resolution than the true optical resolution of the scanner.

Everything is in the scan.



We have a few of international workshops coming up in the next 12 months! For basic information please see below.  The links attached will have all details and ways to register.


Iceland: August 21-September 2, 2012

I am enthralled with Iceland. It is one of the most beautiful places I've been and I feel a deep pull to continue to explore and share this place. This is a new trip customized for my photographic interests and curiosities, dedicated to a wonderful and deep photographic experience.

2012 Calendars


12 selections from Steve's Exquisite Earth, National Parks or Pacifica work.

11" x 17"
Price $20.00

More Information

To order by credit card.





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 perfect Christmas 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

Studio Lab Rental

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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 January 12, 2012 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2012, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide