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pedro point

Pedro Point Headlands. Pacifica, CA. 2015. Canon 5DSr. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on July 11-14, 2015

Welcome to the July 2015 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

I've been working with Canon's new 50 megapixel 5DSr and consequently thinking about many issues and opportunities related to resolution. It led to some new aerial work, which I love, and a new focus on my Life Form work.

This month's View From Here column explores the new Canon 5DSr camera. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section talks about Aerial Photography from a Small Plane.


Maine Media Workshops

photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his July Image Editing Workshop.
Photo 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 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 mountain

Golden Gate. 2015.

Golden Gate, the Presidio and Marin Headlands.
Canon 5DSr.

9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Quantity Limited to 20 prints at this price.

From a beautiful flight around the coast here at my studio in Pacifica and on up to San Francisco and the Golden Gate. Layers of fog were Defining the mountains and ridge lines of Marin County with a remarkable beauty.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on July 11-14, 2015
Highway One Coastal Journey. July 25-26, 2015
Acadia National Park. Maine August 29-30, 2015
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 10-13, 2015

Death Valley in Winter January 23-26, 2016

printing class

March 2015 Black and White Class. Photo from demo video by Fiona McDonnell

Speaking Events (see below)

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New Photo Link

Golden Gate Bridge from above the South Tower.
San Francisco.
Canon 5Dsr.

Click to order a print




Downtown San Francisco with the Bay Bridge. 2015.

by Stephen Johnson

Testing the new Canon 5DSr
This is not a Review

Canon's new 50 megpixel 5DSr was long awaited. It was interesting to have it in to start using, testing its features and resolution, perhaps more importantly getting a feeling for its possibilities

It is not often that a new camera changes the way I think and react to my photography. It certainly did when I used my first 4x5 view camera in 1975, the Leaf Digital Back for the Hasselblad in 1993, and particularly the BetterLight Scanning back in 1994. The Canon 5DSr might not be quite that deeply game changing, but I did feel some of the same sense of greater empowerment and possibility, even seduction.

Most of the newness comes from the 5DSr resolution. Moving from a 23 megapixel camera to 50 megapixels is a major difference. For the sheer resolution, the Nikon D800 variants were tempting. I still have a good selection of Nikon lenses, and I used the 800 series a bit, and though it was clearly a nice camera, it didn't scream at me to change brands. Many of my students had the Nikon 800 or 800E, and I got to use it some, seeing some very fine images out of it. 14 megapixel more just wasn't enough incentive.

I had seen a prototype Canon 100 megapixel chip, and images from it at the Canon Tech Expo in New York in 2013. We all knew that Canon would somehow answer Nikon's resolution increase. Many of us thought it might be along sooner.

In 2011, I came to terms with what I generally found to be size limitations of my 23mp camera files, for me 14 inches wide for fine detail in prints, 25 inches wide for softer image content, and almost unlimited size for certain very soft subject matter.

I have always loved aerial photography, but had been doing less because of technology challenges. Serious flying required me to carry both my Canon camera and the Phase One back on my old Hasselblad. Neither was ideal as the 35mm format had clear limitations on what I could do with some files, and the medium format camera was just plain harder to use in the air, even though it produced some great images.

Consequently, aerial work was naturally high on my list when the 5DSr became available. My flying connections had drifted away as many of my pilot friends had let their licenses lapse. The new camera gave me the incentive to reach out, and we made a great pilot connection almost immediately, taking to the air within days of the camera arriving. Aerial photography is always challenging, balancing ISO boosting with noise tolerance for the fastest shutter speed and a sharp aperture. We did two flights in succession, one quick one because of northern California coastal fog's limited visibility, and the other over two hours long.

I was very pleased with the wonderful sights I was able to take in near my studio here in Pacifica and northward. We flew up the coast along Pacifica's many headlands, then onto the Golden Gate, flying through the layered mist and fog, with great views the coastline and the beautiful city of San Francisco. 2300 photographs later, I will be looking to see what I've done for some time.


Steve Holding a 40 inch print made from his flight. A 14% enlargement at 240ppi.

Print size is the bottom line incentive for me with this new camera. These are clearly the biggest color prints I've ever been able to make from a 35mm format color camera. Of course that means the most fine detail is being held.

That size capability actually gets at the most important takeaways for me. I felt empowered to record more seriously than with any 35mm I've ever held. This has huge implications for me artistically, as documents, and as a revealer of the world.


Canon 5DSr Raw Resolutions.

Multiple raw resolution modes is an interesting capability. I'm not sure how often I would use it, but I can see the downside of slogging through 50+ mb files for every casual photograph I might make. Already, I noticed all of my workflows naturally slowing down with the added overhead of the big files. The 50 megapixel file comes out of a Raw Interpreter as either 150mb in 8 bit, or more likely for those of us that want to hold onto the bit depth of the camera, 300mb when the file is rendered into the 16 bit space.

Powered by Zoomify

Downtown San Francisco, CA. 2015.
Zoomify export from Photoshop for full res looks into the file. Not yet working on mobile devices,
I will update as I get the HTML5 version ready.


Rendering fine details has always been one of the challenges of 35mm format, as film or as grainless digital. Architecture has been one of those subjects where large format cameras excelled, for the detail and the adjustability of the camera itself for no perspective distortion. Now that we have Tilt-shift lenses for our 35mm format cameras, and Photoshop perspective correction tools, the missing piece remained resolution. This has now been addressed with Canon's 5DSr and its dramatic increase in resolution for the 35mm format.


Conservatory and Palms, Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2015.

I've heard a few comments about the dynamic range of the camera. Although my limited tests did not reveal any real shortcomings, it is certainly true that any camera's capabilities need to be judged on far more than resolution. An ability to record a wide range of light and dark values is one of those considerations. The very small pixel size of this camera should be challenged dynamically. I must say though, at this point, if I see shadow and highlight detail reaching the edges of the histogram in a field exposure, where practical, I'm automatically thinking about an HDR file. I'll look into the dynamic range more as time allows.

A number of nice additions to this model's camera firmware proved useful. The mirror-lock up built-in delay allows me to trip the mirror and not have to trip the shutter separately. The aspect ratio selections give us a nice mask within the viewfinder that is read as a preset crop by Adobe Camera Raw and the Canon Digital Photo Professional. A scrolling info window displaying different data sets within the review screen was handy. And quite unexpectedly, the tilt indicator is now viewable through the viewfinder with x and y axis displayed interactively. I might just get more horizons straight on my handheld work with this feature.

There are features I would really like to see built-in into the new cameras. A Depth of Field routine that would let us focus on the near focus need, then the distant focus need, and then automatically calculate the needed aperture and ideal focusing point. Short of that, it would be very helpful to have distance read out in the camera so that depth of field charts and apps can be easily used.


...continued top of right column of the essay


100% View of the photograph to the left. 2015.

Naturally, zooming the file to a 100% view was one of the first things I did as I opened my first files. What I found was very encouraging. There was clearly substantially more detail than my 23 mp cameras. Anything less would have been surprising, but it was still gratifying to see. There was no doubt of the increased capability, no supposition that something didn't look quite right, as I had seen with other higher resolution cameras. I was very pleased.


Fiona and Steve. Canon 5DSr. 2015 100% zoom detail..

Portraits with a high res camera are generally not what people want to see. But I came to a very different place back in the late 1970s with my 4x5 camera, and then later digitally with the Leaf DCB. A portrait with the DCB of my dear friend Bruce Fraser I did for an article we were co-writing for Mac User magazine, remains one of my favorite portraits. The 5DSr was of course put to some portrait tests and worked out very well. I might have liked to work with a better subject than me, but Fiona looks good.

Time Lapse Marin Headlands. 2015.
Canon 5DSr. Default 300 frames, made every 5 seconds.

The camera's built in Time Lapse Movie function is fun. The feature allows you to set how many images and how frequently they are made, and assembles in-camera the fully rendered time-lapse movie. Although I would not consider it a professional tool in the sense of preservation of information or editing flexibility, it is cool. The 5DSr also does have a built-in intervalometer (finally) for making a series of files at your command for later assembly into a time lapse sequence.

On video, the quality seems typical of Canon's very high quality video recording, but a real drawback as compared to my 5D III is the lack of a headphone jack to monitor the audio as we record. For professional work that is still relying on in camera audio, this a real disadvantage.

With the smaller pixel size (to cram more sensor sites onto the 1x1.5 inch sensor) there is a more limited ISO range as well, maxing out at ISO 6400. While it is true that I rarely went that high on my 5D III, it is natural that we don't want to give up anything as we gain more capabilities. The small pixel light gathering ability does make the lower max ISO a natural trade off however. I can live with that. I have yet to compare noise structure at ISO 6400.


Open House showing the Canon 5DSr. Pacifica. 2015. Photo by Eleanor Normile.

I wanted to share the camera as I was getting questions about it from many curious students and colleagues. So we invited our mailing list to an Open House the evening of June 23, hosting some old friends, new friends and students. We got some good questions, I learned more about the camera and people could take some photographs either in my studio or of the hillsides and mountains outside my studio.

All told, the new Canon 5DSr is quite an impressive camera which I'm sure will add substantial capabilities to my photographic work.

New Developments at SJ Photo

New Camera, New Photographs
I continued my re-dedication to my Life Form project with the new Canon 5Dsr. With this camera, even more 40 inch prints have been made. I'm stoked!


A new Life Form photograph. UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.. 2015
Canon 5DSr.

New Gallery Show
Five of my photographs are on exhibit through the summer at the Cavallo Pont Art Gallery on the north side of the Golden Gate.


Steve with Staghorn Fern print. Cavallo Point Gallery. 2015


Cavallo Point Gallery
. 2015



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 Los angeles and New York City at Photo Plus.

  • Ft. Worth, Texas. November 7, 2015
  • Phoenix, Arizona. November 2015
  • 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 three workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage




Aerial Photography from a Small Plane

Aerial photography has always been one of my passions. Over the years, a few techniques have helped the process along.

Flying this last week with the new Canon 5DSr camera brought some of those to mind and I thought I would share a few in this month's Tutorial.

Aerial Methodology

  • Open Cockpit or Open Window (door off even better). Highly polished windows if not open. Interior reflections can then be bad, so dark shirt and rubber lens hood.
  • High wing aircraft, ideally without wing struts.
  • Fast shutter speed
  • Fast memory cards, and lots of them
  • Medium to wide aperture
  • Lenses vary, but generally slightly wide to some zoom. My 24-105 is a good range. The whales we flew over on my last flight made me regret not bringing a longer lens, at least my 70-200mm.
  • Lens shades can be wind catchers and decrease camera steadiness.


Previous Tutorial: Aerial Photography from a Commercial Plane

Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts


Steve in the air photographing over the Golden Gate. Photo by Fiona McDonnell.


The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.

2015 Calendars

11" x 17"
Price $25.00

2015 Life Form Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Life Form work.

Life Form Calendar order


2015 Pacifica Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Pacifica, CA work.

Pacifica Calendar order.


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


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.




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 July 14, 2015 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2015, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide