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Death Valley from Dante's View. 1998. Email to order a print. Next Workshop Death Valley in Winter. January 24-27, 2013..

Welcome to the January 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Looking at the year ahead, some travels to places I love, some big projects moved along. Trying hard to accept that many of these take time, but excited at holding the results in hand. Getting ready for the Death Valley Workshop and working through Ireland photographs to illustrate the July Workshop's wonders. Like many of you, I am starting out the new year with excitement and dedication, the possibilities are so vast and deep...

This month's View From Here column explores the Solace of Open Spaces. We hope you enjoy reading it and perhaps will send us some comments. Our Tutorial this month talks about some DSLR Video fascinations.


  • For those of you with new digital cameras, just getting into photography or feeling intimidated by the new digital technology with the camera you've had for a while, try our Basic Digital Camera Use Lecture coming up Thursday Evening January 31, 2013 from 7-10pm $45.

  • 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.

We return to Death Valley for our Death Valley in Winter workshop January 24-27, 2013. This full moon and winter light on the geographically rich and multi-hued valley make for an amazing photographic trip. Add the Sand Dunes at dawn and you have quite a set of photographic opportunities.

One of the true wonders of the world has been added to our winter workshop schedule with our Yosemite in Winter workshop Feb. 16-18, 2013.

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 14-25, 2013. 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 openings in the Ireland Workshop this summer and there are some great deals now on air fares when booking early. Two veteran instructors, lodging, ground transportation, two meals per day and fun adventures are all included in this workshop.

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 the 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



Highway, Ridgeline and Hills. Death Valley. 2012.

Death Valley Highway. 2012
9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

on the road during the Death Valley workshop in 2012. The valley is constantly challenging our perceptions of space and distance...


Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Death Valley in Winter (full moon) January 24-27, 2013
Free Meet-up Group Event at our Gallery. Feb 5, 2013 7pm
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 14-25, 2013

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Deer and Lupines in Fog. Pt. Reyes. 2012.



...walking through the almost rain, mist and fog, enjoying the scene but ready to get back to the warmth of the car, we spotted this deer grazing in the lupines...



Hills, Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2012.

by Stephen Johnson

The Solace of Natural Form and Open Spaces

The connection between our humanness and our planet is in many ways too obvious to even discuss. It is self-evident. I would think. But I know in my own life, it is something that easily slips away, lost in the daily tasks of our modern lives inundated by our creations. We value so many of our tools and toys, the very Mac Book I'm writing on now, or the smell of the coffee maker brewing a fresh pot. I am grateful for the shelter from the rain and cold, and the ability to transport myself to the redwoods or around the world in a very short time.

Without getting deep into our place in the world psychologically or philosophically, we do pay a price for our modernity. From a strictly experiential level, our sense of well being is obviously shaped by our daily surrounds. We strive to make our homes and workplaces comfortable, productive and life giving. My books, CDs, musical instruments are of value to me and make a difference in my daily life.

But it is also clear, that the connections to the source of everything, our very planet, can be easy to view as separate, as though we are separate. Of course we are not at all separate, and we know it. The challenges of making a living, spending time and doing right by our loved ones, rising to our own aspirations, financial, artistic, or spiritual can be all consuming. It can be so easy for the disconnect from the earth to take care of normal life, even where the other aspirations directly benefit from a plunge into a starry night or the deep woods, we don't give it the time.

Photography has played a critical role for me in engaged in the natural world, connected to the sun and stars, even when no photographs or cameras are involved.

There are senses of space and surrounds that become iconic as we experience them. Over time, they evolve into a kind of memory shorthand, where the smell and sound of a place can be called to mind with only a vague association. These memories become part of an underlying consciousness, almost iconic, certainly part of our inner romance with the ideal.

Death Valley from Dante's View. Quicktime VR. which may take time to load.
Click and drag Mouse to pan, or use left/right arrow keys, shift to zoom, control to zoom out.

The desert is one of those places, full of light, space and dust, dry air, uncanny silence, an echoing ring to the rocks as our own footsteps knock them against each other...a dryness you can almost smell, mixed in with the sounds of a bird's wings pulling itselve through the air. I can feel the desert in my skin, even without heat. The air is dry. You can taste it.

But it is the open space and vast distances I've experienced in the desert that have been most profound. There are not many places you can see almost 100 miles. In Death Valley I have. It makes an impression, not only about the size of the place, but about my own smallness.

Playing off the differences in these natural environments is inevitably part of the photographic experience. We get pulled to these different environments, we keep trying to encode their realities into our images. Reaching for the camera is instinctive as we witness the remarkable, dramatic or sublime. The camera isn't always there, but I hope my heart always is.

Landscape photography sometimes seems like the product-producing excuse for hanging out in wonderful places. And maybe it is. It is also transportive of more than just physically moving around. At its best, the photograph becomes an act of consideration and concentration that starts with giving the process intrinsic value, and continues through to a love of craft and beauty most often manifested in a print. All done best when slowing down, focusing on what is happening on the planet around you. I don't believe it comes out well when hoping for something else or being driven by dissatisfaction or impatience. It works best for me when I care about what I am seeing, and feel that calm of the time invested being deeply worthwhile.

It is after all a privilege to be witness to splendor and work your craft to hold an impression of the sacred light our miracle eyes manage to see.


...continued top of right column

New Panoramic Display


For this year's Holiday Open House we installed some new temporary display panels in the gallery and gathered together a body of my panoramic work. This included many new prints and some I have been proud of for a long time.

Naturally, there wasn't wall space for a whole new installation without a major commitment of resources to replace either the National Parks or Exquisite Earth Galleries. So we built some temporary panels for the National Parks Gallery and created a pano display bin.

This is a very special collection of work for me and I hope you drop by and see the results. Prints vary in price by size, but are discounted shrink-wraped without matts.

Much thanks to Carl Schwab and my partner Fiona McDonnell for the installation and panels. A deep thanks to my assistant Elizabeth Bredall for continuing to keep the Studios and Gallery running.


Mono Lake and Paoha Island. 2012.

Standing near open water has become one of the life-sustaining natural experiences in my life. Watching the rhythm of the waves, the roll of surf, the very real huge spaces I can see, and the unimaginable space beyond. I always say that we are drawn to water not only because it is life-giving, but because at some level we sense that this is where we are from, still carrying the salt water of our origins in our blood to this day.

Living near the Pacific Ocean has been a passion of my adult life. It wasn't something I dreamed of, but rather kind of happened into by a series of choices. I could never have anticipated the role the sea has come to play in my life. It is a constant, the low level sound of surf is never far away, and becomes something like a sacred rhythm of the earth's breathing. The coastline is where I most frequently watch the sun set, walk under the stars and walk for the sheer pleasure of being outside. I spend great times there with my partner Fiona and our dog Sandy. The sea is a constant reminder of a living earth.

The surround and fecundity of the forest carries a sense of the tall and complex, mixed with strong scents of healthy trees and undergrowth, decay and new life everywhere. Forests are often filled with the sound of running water, birds and trees squeaking in the breeze, insects buzzing. It is both full of bigness and a curious closed-in surround without horizon. The forest can be a most curious place.


Forest. Pt. Reyes. 2012.

These are not small experiences. They may be quiet, or dramatic, but they are born from our core notions of the earth, of belonging to this planet, ultimately of having the solace of a home amid much disconnect and challenge.

I have no intention of raising praise for a our natural connections to a religious experience, although I understand how it is for some. I do however, want to remind myself through my writing, of the sensitivities and values that make me whole, and influence my work as an artist. Mostly I work by instinct, but naturally I also muse on my work, its place in my life, my values as expressed through my art, and how I want to spend the time and energy I have here, living and breathing on this planet.

I want to be immersed in the trees and mountains, the coast and surf, the desert sand and the sacred sun. I am very fortunate to have a partner who loves wandering the planet as well.

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

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

The Bay Area Photography & Exploration Society
Aesthetics and High End Digital Photography with Stephen Johnson
Tuesday February 4, 6:30 to 8:30.

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

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

  • Chicago in April

    Columbia College

    DuPage College

  • 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.
  • Portland Oregon in early November



This may be more an enthusiasm than tutorial.

Cuts assembled in Photoshop CS6. Surf audio thanks to Bill Schwegler, Fyreplug.


Lee Vining Creek 2010 (from the September Newsletter)

I started with an overall scene of the creek, then decided to zoom into various areas where the design and movement seemed interesting. Finessing length of shot to the dynamics of the scene is key. This particular edit simply assembles the cuts into what might be a starting point for a shorter piece. Canon 5DII video.

New Product  

Pigment Poster Series

mori poster

Over the years, many of our poster series have sold out, and some were very impractical to print anyway, such as our long panoramic posters. We're a creating a new product line to address continuing inquires, our new Pigment Posters, contemporary inkjet prints from posters currently out of print or ones we never brought to press.

These pigment posters are pigmented inkjet prints, printed on attractive but lightweight paper, screened to imitate the texture of traditional halftone dots from a printing press, and priced between a mass produced poster and an high quality fine art print. These posters will outlast traditional posters and should bring years of enjoyment to your home or office.

I hope you'll consider one for your wall.

Special introductory pricing on these first two  in the Series at $150 each, regularly $200. Call to order 650 355-7507.

dusk mono poster


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

Studio Lab Rental

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matting video

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 15, 2013 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2012, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide