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Clouds over South America. 2005. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. Click to order a print. Next Workshop: Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017

Welcome to the January 2017 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Holiday good wishes to you all. Many of us are more than ready to say goodbye to 2016, and look to the New Year with much concern. Many unknowns lie ahead, but if we bring the best of our compassion, reason and belief in justice to bear, we can make a difference.

I wish you all a good year, opportunity to do your work, the fortitude to make a difference for this fragile planet, and the insight to relish its beauty.

This month's View From Here column mulls over the end of the year and features some photos from the archive. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section is a video of my Color Management lecture at Google.


  • 2017 Workshop Schedule is building with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

    Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017. Transformed from a searing 120 degree desert in summer to January's mild 60-70 degree weather, Death Valley is filled with intriguing landforms, delicate flora, strange mineral deposits and expansive views. Mile high Dante's View overlooks the patterned salt flats of Badwater and the Amargosa River below (the lowest point in the United States). Badwater's still water in turn mirrors the blue and white Panamint Mountains to the West. The lunar landscape of Ubehebe Crater's black volcanic fields rise from the rolling desert at the valley's north end with the steep gorge of Titus Canyon and Red Pass to the southeast.

    Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing. February 11-12, 2017. Explore black and white conversion, aesthetics and printing in the digital age with a classical landscape photographer who comes from the world of large-format black and white photography and years in the darkroom and has worked hard and early on for the development of high quality digital photography technology.

    Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017. Focusing exclusively on fine-art digital printing, Stephen explores the possibilities of printmaking using Epson inkjet printers. Concentrating on printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag papers, students learn from the digital pioneer how he obtains his impressive results. Stephen covers workflow issues, color management, correcting color casts, adjustment layers, custom profile generation, editing, and inspection, as well as paper visual qualities and the challenges and advantages of printing.

    Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017 (filling fast) Awesome Crater Lake, a total Eclipse of the Sun among strange Painted Hills, check this out, an amazing opportunity! (only 2 spots left)


Steve in daily group discussion with his January 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



Ice Boulders and Glacier at Dusk. Antarctica. 2005.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

Ice Boulders and Glacier at Dusk. Antarctica. 2005
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

It was a treat to find this photograph of Antarctica ice lurking among the deep archives of my studio.


Workshop Schedule
Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017
Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing: February 11-12, 2017
Lecture: Digital Natoinal Parks Project. Image Flow. Mill Valley, CA.
Thursday March 2nd. 7pm
Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017
RAW to Print Bootcamp June 5-9, 2017
Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017


Linda Mar Bay, just down the road from Stephen Johnson Photography.


Speaking and Exhibition Events (see below)

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Grasses and Storm. San Joaquin Valley. 2005
Kodak DCS Pro 14N

Dramatic Storm Clouds over southern San Joaquin Valley.


Purchase a print of this photograph


Antarctica. 2007.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II


Iceberg Hill and Penguins. Antarctica 2005.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II.

by Stephen Johnson

Holiday good wishes to you all.

Many of us are more than ready to say goodbye to 2016, and look to the New Year with much concern. I wish you all a good year, opportunity to do your work, the fortitude to make a difference for this fragile planet, and the insight to relish its beauty.

Take care of each other, take care of your hearts, and let’s hope we can inspire each other to make the best photographs of our lives. There are few other art forms with the power of photography’s reality and it continues to be a pleasure to share this medium with all of you.

An End of Year Perspective

Year-end wrap ups are often mixed bags of feeling overwhelmed, proud and somewhat surprised at the amount of work done. It also can carry a driven sense of wanting our photography to be ever more widely seen and to more deeply move our viewers.

This year is no different, except that my recent archiving and film capture projects are inevitably looking further back as well. That look back gives me a much longer view than just looking at 2016, which is both encouraging and daunting.

It's good to look back at forgotten photographs and see images I like. But the sheer amount of them always makes the mountain of understanding my work a steep one to climb. It occurred to me that featuring a few of those newly uncovered photos would be a nice illustration of this newsletter.

rain forest

Sea Iguana and Sally Lightfoot Crab. Galapagos Workshop. 2008.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.

One thing I was struck by in looking at the work from 2004 onward. The dSLRs have improved even more than my memory would have suggested. My work with them has also improved dramatically. It is nice to see growth. It is also suitably humbling, reflecting on that challenge––that there is always so much to learn and so much yet to share. The most gifted and best informed teachers I've known in my life are those that are deeply aware of how much more there is to learn.



Moro Rock. Sequoia National Park. 2008
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

The film copying project I've mentioned in earlier newsletters brings another perspective entirely. After 40 years of photography, there is so much work, that it could take another lifetime to access it, assess it, and bring some of the photographs into print. The daunting nature of tens of thousands of photographs naturally scares me, the fact that only some of them really merit the attention humbles me, and too few hours in a day makes me doubt how deep I will plunge.

It is interesting to carry a thought that there is this treasure trove of work waiting to be explored, then to find many not of great value, but then re-discovering some gems far better than remembered.


mono lake and sierra

Aerial. Mono Lake and Sierra Nevada.. 2008
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

I have worked out a rhythm, back burner projects often distract me from finishing tasks, but the copying project just keeps giving back, even as I feel like I’m sneaking away from work. In that context, work means income or deadlines. Play means experimentation, and re-investment in a lifetime of work. After all of these decades, and perhaps another few decades of new photographs, those thoughts are both scary and delightful. This art thing does get confusing.



I have been struck by my technical progress over the years. Just at a pure organizational level, I exercise much more care in organizing the work from the very beginning. Starting at offload, with custom naming and daily folder generation of photos, to the added care that meta-data is checked and augmented, my own internal workflow continues to improve. But I'm always behind in key-wording.

Having used Photoshop since the late 1980s and taught digital photography since 1991, my skills are good, but it is amazing how much they continue to improve. It is ironic, that as a push-it-through mentality has become ever more prevalent in digital photography, I find myself taking even more care. A few of the tools are making some improvements, but the most essential capabilities have been around for some time. And in some cases, essential capabilities are being stripped out. One of my most important tools, Adobe Bridge has lost many of its features with new versions.


smith rock

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-75) on Launch Pad 39 from top of Launch Gantry.
Kennedy Space Center. 1996.
Kodak DCS 460c

One of the biggest liberations I have found in the last decade was in the deepened power of Adobe’s Camera Raw processor, ACR, whether attached to Bridge and Photoshop or embedded in Lightroom. The features improvements of Highlights, Whites, Shadows and Blacks given to us by Eric Chan and Thomas Knoll in every version since Photoshop CS6, continue to liberate my older files from tapped detail and blown highlights.

The photograph above from my Kodak DCS460 in 1996 is a good example as its highlights and shadows were over-processed in earlier raw processors and are now quite controllable.

A newly realistic look for so much work delights my current workflow with the most human visual experience I've known excepting my work with Michael Collette’s Betterlight Scanning Back.


ACR Basic Sliders with bright values held back, and dark values opened up.
Adobe ACR 7 and forward.

Another real advance is the development of higher resolution 35mm format dSLR cameras. My Canon 5DSr is a miraculous step forward for print size and detail. It has also allowed zoom cropping on some wildlife photographs, often still holding as much resolution as the smaller sensors.

Unsettled Tech

In photography, there used to be skills that once acquired could be relied upon for decades, building greater and greater finesse. In this digital photo world, nothing could be further from the truth. I've always been surprised when artists describe themselves as Masters. In this digital age, it is even more so, mastery is elusive, and when it is self-declared is is at its least attractive. We can get good at a particular set of digital tools, and the judgment is often transferable, but the tools keep changing, and mastery becomes even more elusive. Very little can be relied upon to continue to work as expected. What seems to many of us users as arbitrary or ill-considered changes often make our work much more difficult. I don't recall having to re-learn so many skills in the darkroom.

It is true, that once I got the hang of a curve editor, probably back in 1989, I was hooked. I have been able to use the concept across many software packages with good results. But even as a Photoshop Adjustment Layer, the Adobe Curve Editor needs improvement to work better with more precise input, and no unitended curve movement just by selecting a point.

It is the visual judgment that seems to grow and last, although certainly shaped by our own evolving tastes. That is probably my most valuable skill.


...continued top of right column of the essay


Dunes at Dawn. Death Valley National Park.. 2005.
Kodak DCS Pro 14N.

A few photographs did catch my eye from my quick review of the new back ups. I had forgotten about some of them, others were very familiar and it seemed a shame they had been a little buried for awhile.



Tern. Iceland. 2009.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.


Mendocino Headlands. 2007.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II.

Archives from the exotic places like Antarctica or the Galapagos do hold many more photos to explore. I keep dipping my eyes into their archives and continue to find images of interest. Trips of that kind produce so many images that it is very hard to spend the time looking through them thoroughly. I wonder sometimes if I should just stay at home for a few years to understand what I've already done.

But that doesn't sound like fun.


Mountains of Ice. The Gullet. Antarctica. 2009.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Each time I take a look through the Antarctica files, I am amazed, and deeply grateful to have been able to go to that ice world. With four trips down now, the sheer numbers of iceberg photographs alone makes me delighted, and want to run away as far as possible. There are too many, they are too amazing as form, and after a few minutes, they all start to look alike.

Of course, they are not all alike. It takes many small, shorter looks to see the individual merits within the mass of imagery. That's not unlike being out in the real world, where the sheer beauty of what surrounds us can make it hard to know where to concentrate. And just like those moments in the field, taking one scene at a time and working it through is what seems called for.

There is probably some limit at how many icebergs you can look at before your are berged out.

Recently at SJ Photo

I've been working on my 2016 Photographs collection, and digging more videos out of the archive and getting them online. The Tutorial below emerged from that exploration, and features a Google Talk Video from 2007.

Perhaps you'll consider joining us for our upcoming Death Valley Workshop in January.


ubeheebe hills

Sunlit Hill from Ubehebe Crate. Death Valley. 2008.
Canon 1Ds II.

2017 Calendar

2017 Pacifica Calendar now available.

20 scenes in and around Pacifica, California where Stephen Johnson Photography is located. Full page trail map included. Printed on a color laser digital press.

gift certificate

Recent Studio Scene

My dear 12.5 year old Golden Retriever Sandy has not been well lately and has been even more my constant companion. When I'm in town, she and I are at the studio most every day. Time with her has become even more precious.

It always seems important to let others know how much you love them while they are still with us. Sandy might not understand my words, but I know she feels the love. So I decided to share some of the love and be able to give her a hug at the same time.

agave print

Sandy in the Studio. 2006.
Haselblad H2.


Sandy at Mussel Rock. Pacifica, CA. June 2015.
iPhone photo.

please email your comments to us




Consulting Programs, Speaking and Exhibition 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



Coming up in January, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA will be opening an exhibit Make Software which features Photoshop, and consequently video interviews with Steve and others, one of Steve's first digital view camera prints and features some of his equipment.

In 2013, the Computer History Museum interviewed Steve at his studio for the Make Software Exhibition opening in January. Here is excerpt of that interview.


Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd
Mountain View, CA 94043


Steve Lecturing with George Harrison at Photo Plus.
New York City. January 2016.
Photo by Dan Neri.

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

Practical Color Management


A Google Tech Talk from 2007.



Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

from May 9, 2007 with Stephen Johnson on the Google Mountain View Campus.

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products


2017 Pacifica Calendar

20 scenes in and around Pacifica, California where Stephen Johnson Photography is located. Full page trail map included. Printed on a color laser digital press.

11" x 17"

To order directly from MagCloud Printing

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.


To Purchase



gift certificate

Life Form Note cards

5x7 inches (sold-out, on backorder)



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

Studio Lab Rental

We're open by appointment. To find us, use our map online at:

Google Map to Studio
Yahoo Map to studio

Studio directions and site layout.


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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 18, 2017 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2017, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide