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Bay Bridge and Buildings. San Francisco 2011. Canon 1Ds MarkIII. See our San Francisco Digitally Workshop July 16-17.

Welcome to the June 2011 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

We hope through all of the crazy weather that came in the spring, you have had the opportunity to make striking photographs and that a mild summer is on its way. We extend our sympathies to those that have suffered from the tornadoes, flooding and recent heat.

This month's View From Here column discusses my Mono Lake conservation work, and the recent panel I participated in on my good friend Al Weber at Carmel's Center for Photographic Art.

We are excited to announce a brand new workshop coming up this summer, visiting some of the classic landscapes of eastern California, High and Eastern: A High Sierra, Owens Valley, and White Mountains Workshop
August 21-27, 2011. We have a $400 discount running on the class through June 15, 2011.

My summer workshop program begins with our 5 day RAW to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp, (a second sesssion is being considered for July 25-29) and the new Advanced Fine Art Print Hands-on printing refinement class both in July.

Our San Francisco Digitally weekend workshop runs July 15-16, exploring some of San Francisco's most visually interesting areas.

The Mono Lake Workshop follows October 8-11 with the Death Valley in Winter Workshop starting the new year running January7-10, 2012.

There is one scholarship spot in each of these classes.

My summer sessions at the Maine Media Workshops are coming up the last two weeks of June and we are doing a Santa Fe workshop The Land, the File and the Print October 19-22, 2011.

We are excited for our workshop exploring southern China, Guangxi Landforms for mid-November and the proposed Galapagos trip in March.

Our new Virtual Online Consulting Program continues this month with only a few slots available. This new 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.

In order to help make sense of where a particular workshop fits into our overall program, we have added a Digital Photography Curricula page to our website.

This month's Tutorial is on Copying Artwork.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the show, 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.



Cranes, Port of San Francisco. 2011

Last weekend, after a lunch on the waterfront, I took a drive down 3rd Street in San Francisco wandering the streets and baylands along the old Port of San Francisco. Although not unused, the port is largely a port of the past, with most of the old facilities in decay or gone, many absorbed into industrial park adaptation, some outright abandoned. It is both funky and mysterious, a place I always like to explore.

The Port is just one of the many facets of this complex city we call San Francisco. Join us if you can on our San Francisco Digitally Workshop July 16-17.


   FEATURED PRINT for June 2011

alabama hills



Alabama Hills. 1980
120mm Agfapan 25
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

The spectacular granite boulder fields of the famous Alabama Hills near Movie Road Lone Pine with the high Sierra towering above.

2011 Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Photoshop Straight and True
June 11--12, 2011
Maine Media Workshops
Vision and Craft: Perfecting the Photographic Image: June 19-24
Printing Photographic Beauty: June 26-July 1
RAW to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp
July 11-15, 2011 (full, second session added July 25-29, 2011)
San Francisco Digitally
July 16-17, 2011
The Advanced Fine Art Print
July 18-22, 2011
High and Eastern: A High Sierra, Owens Valley, and White Mountains Workshop
August 21-27, 2011
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 8-11, 2011
Guangxi China
November 7-19, 2011
Death Valley in Winter
January 7-10, 2012

















Workshop Testimonials

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Dusk, Mono Lake, 1979.


Mono Lake, Art and Conservation

In the mid-1970s I visited Mono Lake for the first time and found it to be a deeply beautiful and strange place. Over the years it was becoming clear the lake was falling. Eventually I learned about water diversions of its feeder streams to Los Angeles 350 miles to the south.

In 1979 I decided to organize a big photographic exhibition to draw attention to the unique beauty of the place. My friends and photographic mentor Al Weber and Don Worth helped curate the show, with Ansel Adams and Brett Weston contributing prints. Letters of support from Ansel, non-profit sponsorship by David Brower and Friends of the Earth helped get the project underway.


At Mono Lake Exhibition at the California Academy of Sciences Installation. San Francisco, CA 1983.

The exhibition At Mono Lake gathered work from over a hundred years of photography and nearly 50 photographers, toured the country from 1980 to 1983, was seen by over 4 million people and now resides in a permanent gallery at the Mono Basin National Scenic Area Visitor's Center in Lee Vining. A catalog drawn from the show was published in 1983 including 63 photographs from the exhibit.

aml cover

At Mono Lake Exhibition Catalog. Cover photograph by Clinton Smith. 1983.

A public relations campaign and lawsuit was waged against the water diversions  and was successful in mandating a minimum lake level being restored before water diversion could resume.

An Aging Exhibition and New Opportunities
The At Mono Lake exhibition is now 30 years old and needs some tender loving care. It also needs some modernization with some electronic interpretation and a exhibition catalog that represents all of the work in the show.

I have devoted some time to this project this last month or so, recreating the book in InDesign with the hope of publishing a full electronic version, illustrating the Exhibition Inventory page on the website, designing some new graphics for the Visitor's Center and some new posters that might serve as fundraiser's for the short and long-term maintenance of the show.

The Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association is the current non-profit managing affairs relating the Mono Lake Visitors Center and therefore will likely be the conduit for the work we are now doing.

mono sunrise

Pastel Sunrise. Mono Lake 1981.

A Photographic Style
My Mono Lake work is where my own photographic style emerged and matured into an aesthetic that deeply appreciates the nature of light-filled color and real world experience of the human perceived color of a place.

The whole At Mono Lake experience so influenced my thinking, artwork, and sense of the possible that it became the subject of my graduate thesis and gave me real confidence to go on to my next big photographic project on my homeland of the Great Central Valley which I did with my friend Robert Dawson from 1982-1986.

Next Mono Lake Class
One of my favorite locations to do a field workshop is at Mono Lake. The stark and beautiful scenery of this legendary lake is unlike any other landscape in the world and I enjoy seeing the work produced from the four days we spend photographing and discussing technical and aesthetic considerations.

Our 2011 Mono Lake Workshop is October 8-11, 2011. Perhaps you can join us.

fox theater

...continued top of right column


Panum Crater, Mono Lake. Timothy O'Sullivan. 1868.

A Tribute to Al Weber: A Panel at the Center for Photographic Art, Carmel

Much of this convergence of attention to the decades-old Mono Lake project came about as I was preparing for a talk about my good friend and co-curator of At Mono Lake, Al Weber, at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel last Saturday.

I first met Al in October of 1975 on one of his and Ralph Putzker's Mono Lake Eastern Sierra workshops run through the University of California Santa Cruz Extension. He and Ralph both became good friends and mentors to me, helping my career and photography in countless ways, not the least of which was the encouragement that my photographic work was of value.


Video of Steve's Talk at Al Weber Tribute. Click to open, and video may take awhile to load.

It was an honor to speak at Al's opening of his Aerial Photographs show at CPA. It was also wonderful to see so many old friends including some of the contributing photographers to At Mono Lake, Ted Orland, Richard Garrod, Marion Patterson and others.

weston poster

At Mono Lake Exhibition Poster. Photograph by Brett Weston, 1961. Poster 1980.



At the Opening Reception for Al Weber's show, I saw many old friends and met some interesting new friends as well. Wynn Bullock's daughter Barbara Bullock was there and we talked about her posing for her Dad, and about her mother Edna whom I was very fond of. She mentioned that there was now a section on her father Wynn's website devoted to her mother's work.

steve and marsh

Steve Johnson and Marsh Pitman. 2011. Michelle Maddox.

My old friend environmentalist Marsh Pitman came by the opening. I met Marsh in 1968 working against the election of Richard Nixon, and then later as co-chairs of the McGovern campaign where I grew up in central California. I was 15 and running the campaign, Marsh served as the adult in the room that let my management of the campaign go forward.

I made the acquaintance of another photographer, Michelle Maddox, who made an impression on me in talking with her, but even more of an impression when I looked at her webpage later. Michelle made a nice photograph of Marsh Pitman and me together.

I also ran into William Giles who I hadn't seen in 20 years or more and thought it would be nice to remind people of his very substantial work. Take a look a his website.

And now for something completely different, below is my pause to look up at the marquis of the newly restored Fox Theater in Oakland as we went in to see the Buffalo Springfield reunited after 40 years. Below is just two iPhone snapshots stitched on site in AutoStitch and emailed to a few friends before the show began. I loved the light, the curvature, the magic of rock and roll. It was a great show.

fox theater

Fox Theater Marquis. Buffalo Springfield. 2011.


Copying Artwork

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

All of us have needed to copy our work at one time or another. As photographers we have certainly been asked to help other artists make slides, and now digital copies of our fellow artists paintings, drawings and other forms of expression.

Object photography has its own demands much like studio photography in general. But the process of lighting flat copy work and reproducing the color accurately is no small task.

There are some tools that can help.


ColorChecker Passport

Color balance is critical for copying artwork. It can be a very painful process to try to match the color of the original work.

You can encode the color response of your copying camera and your RAW processing by photographing the X-rite ColorChecker on your copystand, then by building a custom profile with the X-rite ColorChecker Passport software. It provides whites and neutral grays to white balance on and a custom camera calibration to use on your copy files as a starting point in Lightroom or Camera RAW.


Getting even lighting on the subject is almost impossible. While it is very important to try for an even distribution of coverage with your lights set at 45 degree angles, there is a unique and powerful digital technique/aid available to even out slight or even major variation in coverage. it is called Equalight.

The process involves taking a picture of the blank lighting itself and using it as a map of the lighting variations that is then subtracted from the copied image. Although it is possible to do this by hand in Photoshop with layers, the Equalight software makes the process much easier and systematic.



Watercolor. Ralph Putzker. Betterlight Scanning Camera copy by Stephen Johnson.

Here are a few ideas from my friend Robin Myers, creator of EquaLight that will help you.

1. If you are setting your exposure to a white patch on a ColorChecker, or some other target, make sure the white patch is at the brightest spot in the image area. This is VERY important or you may get burned out highlights!

2. I recommend dusting the white image before using it in EquaLight. This means removing dark dust AND white specular reflections.

3. I also recommend using a Gaussian blur on the white image before use. The radius depends on the size of the original, for my 100 MB images I use a 20 pixel radius (your mileage may vary). Smaller images may require a lower radius value. Often this blurring step will remove tiny dust spots, large ones should be removed as previously noted.

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

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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 June 16, 2011 . Mail comments to:
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