Butano Redwood State Park, Highway One Workshop. Canon 1Ds III.


Rocks, Pebble State Beach. 1994.

yosemite oaks

Highway One Workshop on Mori Point. 2006.

Stephen is a great teacher... continually attentive to student needs, always ready with suggestions for improvement, he is quite a presence. A week after the workshop my head was still spinning with ideas. I am deeply grateful to Stephen and my fellow participants for having made my trip so memorable.

-Andrew Stern
Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley


Welcome to the March 2010 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

This month's View From Here column 35 Realities explores taking 35mm dSRLs seriously with large-format prejudices.

Workshops this spring continue on our tradition of trying to offer valuable educational experiences on topics we feel uniquely qualified to teach. As always, the emphasis is on empowering you as an artist to achieve your aesthetic goals.

Our next workshop is a studio and field combo concentrating on Highway One San Francisco South and is coming right up next week March 13-14.

Continuing our new Photographers and Photoshop Series we have the brand new class Repair, Restoration and Archiving on March 27-28.

A follow-up to the Fine Art Printing course is being offered for the first time in many years, Intermediate Fine Art Digital Printing on April 10-11.

We have a few new workshops. Premiering this Spring is our Tahoe Photo Retreat April 17-18 a weekend immersed in photography, feedback, sharing and learning.

Additionally, we have added a rare 3 days at Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Marin County on May 15-17.

I hope some of you can join us this spring and summer for some of these offerings.

Our Summer Travel Adventure Workshops include:


Workshop Testimonials


Highway One San Francisco South. Last chance to Register!

Printers Available for Donation!

Intern and Scholarship Programs

Video of Steve's Maine Media Workshops Artist's Lecture. Thanks to Patrick Durante. Needs Apple QuickTime plug-in.

DVD: Matting and Framing

March 2010


Braided River. Iceland 2009.
12x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

I love to fly, and knowing I was going to teach a workshop in Iceland last summer, I decided to rent a plane and get a look around from the air before the class. The results were among the most spectacular visual experiences of my life. I offer this aerial view with my Canon 1Ds III from our 4 hour flight.

We're offering an 9x14 inch print, matted to 16x20 and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $75, wood for $150. This print at this price is offered through March 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by April 15th.

About the Program
Each month we offer a signed, original print, at a special price. This is a great opportunity to own a very affordable fine-art photograph. Orders are taken for a 30-day period, then printed and shipped within two weeks after the close. When it's over, it's over, these prints won't be available again at this price.


Waterfall on Rocks, Iceland. 2009

35mm Realities

As the new century turned, I found myself needing to be more mobile, a bit less constrained by my large-format photography habits and instincts. I noticed I was using my small Cambo Wide 4x5 more and more for my work with my BetterLight Scanning Back. I had moved into almost always using the panoramic head for every scan, and the CamboWide worked well for most of those applications.

Of course, I have always carried a 35mm format camera as well. As with most of us, it is the format I started with, learned the seduction of photography on, and was the first film I developed. For me, it wasn't long before the intrigue of larger film and medium format cameras were explored. As my interest in photography deepened, the view camera became my camera of choice. In many ways the view camera is the simplest of all systems. Just a lens and a piece of film at its most basic, the adjustments possible only dawn on many of us when the simplicity becomes elegant and the geometry rises to a challenge. At that point, there is nothing that can substitute for a large format image and the finesses with which you can adjust the camera to the scene.

It was certainly true, and remains so, that nothing equals the photographic quality I've seen with the view camera and Michael Collette's stunning 4x5 BetterLight Scanning back.

The 35mm format cameras always remained as vital cameras on the ready, for fast reaction to light, really bad weather and to document everything else I was up to. All through my project on the national parks I carried whatever the highest-end digital SLR was available. For most of the project that was Kodak digital SLRs in the form of the DCS460, 560, 760 and the 14n. As Kodak chose to exit the market they created, I searched for an alternative system. I had been watching Nikon closely as all of my Kodak cameras were the models that took the Nikon lens mount, therefore I had been building a collection of Nikon optics that were quite good. I had also been looking at the Canon digital entries and watched as they matured rather quickly.  

We are after all in a new age, the 35mm format has grown enormously with the advent of digital imaging. In many ways we now treat our dSLR 35 photographs as though they were medium-format images. And for good reason, the results have grown so dramatically.

In 2005 I was scheduled to go the Galapagos and Antarctica and so I borrowed a Canon system to evaluate. I found the system amazingly good and made a decision to adopt the Canon and in 2006 Canon asked me to join their Explorers of Light group.

My travels since the Canon adoption have taken me to Antarctica three times, the Galapagos twice, Iceland twice, the Andes, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and all over the United States. I have also used the system as part of my continuing work on With a New Eye, my all digital project on America's National Parks. So many photographs along the way would not have been possible without the 35.

I've used the Canon 1Ds Mark II and 1Ds Mark III, about 17 and 22mb respectively, and I've had excellent results. On the first two Antarctica trips and Galapagos I carried my BetterLight 4x5 system as well. As both of those trips were primarily water based, I could rarely use the 4x5. On the last Antarctica trip I carried my old Hasselblad 500ELM with a Phase-One P45 back and had occasional use of their new P65. The P65 and the new Mamiya 645DF were used in Iceland last summer.

Steve in Golden Canyon. Death Valley 2010. Photo by Victor Bloomfield.

All of this serves as introduction to some things I've been pondering and trying to understand about my own thought processes. Long ago, I came to equate serious photography with large format work. It is still the penultimate in image quality and fits very nicely with the considered, careful and slow approach I take to my photography.

But, like anyone else, I yearn for the freedom to move easily, to work from moving boats or aircraft, and to photograph scenes that are alive and fleeting in nature. In so many fundamental ways, the 35mm format is extremely well suited for such work. My medium format work was suitable for this in many instances, but the cost of medium format systems are now so high that they're impractical without a commercial revenue stream associated with their use. My Betterlight systems continues to satisfy my desire for extremely high quality work with stable subjects. And the 35mm remains. I use it all of the time, particularly when I'm teaching and am concentrating on my student's needs, not my own work.

So why have I been feeling like I haven't done a lot of serious work these last few years? I've traveled to wondrous places and been privileged to witness this grand and nuanced planet in amazing ways. I think it may have been my lingering feeling that my 35mm was for casual work, less intense seeing, and for when larger format was not possible. The quality of the digital SLRs continue to rise, the image quality I'm getting from the Canon cameras and that I see from my students Nikon work is very respectable.


Antarctic Berg. 2009

I may have slipped into another place, holding back the old codger large-format mode without even realizing I was playing, making strong photographs and generally enjoying my new found freedom to move. But, of course, I also realized I was still often treating the 35 system as the casual camera my subconscious kept making it, and the photographs were often less than they might have been with more care.

So I've consciously slowed down, used the tripod whenever possible, started to methodically do all of the things I know should be done, from mirror-lock-up, to careful aperture and depth of field balance, and most importantly the compositional care so empowered by that tripod. Of course, the results jumped in quality and usability, almost instantly.

Deep Ice on Glacier. Deception Island, Antarctica. 2005.

It may be my own peculiar challenge, but hand-holding any camera seems to automatically introduce sloppiness into my work, even when I could be exercising greater care. Hand-held, I often forget to look at my settings, leave the camera in auto-focus and barely notice anything but the composition. I know that that is one of the freedoms introduced by the format, to concentrate on what you're seeing and then let the technical details be handled by the system, but it is still clear that my judgment is better than the automation, and when I use it, I benefit, the images jump in quality.

Fern, Kings Canyon. 2006.

All of this perhaps is a long way of saying here is some work, exclusively Canon 35mm, from the last 5 years, that I am extremely proud of and hope that you will enjoy. The grouping is called Exquisite Earth and is meant to convey my deep appreciation for this extraordinary planet we call home. I hope you enjoy the collection. We are considering a limited-edition portfolio drawn from it.



Order Now for a signed copy!

Professional Photographers of America 2007 Hot One Awards

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

Book Reviews
Book Comments online

* Upcoming Workshops
We trust you find our selection of classes interesting and useful for your needs. We take the imparting of information and the empowerment of our students quite seriously. The digital age has considerably enhanced our ability to teach, and we believe, your ability to capture what you see. This program is designed to help you benefit from both of these advances.

We hope you can join us on a workshop.

Referral Discounts

As we are always trying to enlarge our reach out to people to let them know about the workshops, we have instituted a discount policy that can be earned by referring people to the program. It is simply, if they list you as having referred them, and they take a workshop, you get 10% off the next workshop you take from us within one year. These referrals are cumulative and can even bring a you a free workshop. Again, they do have to be redeemed within one year. Deal? Deal.

iCal Calendar of Our Workshop Program

-View our Workshop Calendar.
-Subscribe to our Workshop Calendar.
-Learn more about iCal or to download a copy.

Request a Workshop

We are also starting a new program of letting people request the workshops they want. Check out the Workshops Currently Building List and help us build a list of workshops and people so we can then determine dates. See the workshops page for a list of previously offered classes that we would be happy to teach when we have enough people.

Workshop Scholarship Program

We're restarting our photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops. To start, we will be gathering applications from qualifying college photography students who would like to join us on a workshop.

We will be developing an application page, hold received applications, then choose awards as spots become available. Let people know who you think might be interested.

For applications, please email: info@sjphoto.com



Highway One and the San Mateo Coast
March 13-14, 2010

The coastline of San Mateo County is one of the most beautiful stretches of land and sea anywhere. From eroded, rocky shorelines, to cliffs, long beaches, redwood forests and small towns, this coast is complex and varied. We'll spend the day roaming the coast and mountain roads, stopping at state parks, county parks and checking out the lunch options along the way.

The workshop will be a dynamic combination of a traditional landscape photography workshop while diving deep into the digital age. Technical and aesthetic considerations will be discussed in detail. Our concentration will be on controlling your camera's operation to achieve your desired technical results, while building composition and visual skills to make the photograph what you want it to be. Digital exposure and dynamic range, composition, emotion and amazement-all will be part of our 2-day excursion into the evolving world of digital photography.


Photographers & Photoshop Series: Repair, Restoration, Sharpening and Archiving
March 27-28, 2010.

This workshop continues a new series of classes concentrating on the tools within Photoshop critical to Photographers. It is a great chance to explore digital photographic editing with Steve in his custom-built lab. Your photographic work will benefit from this hands-on class and Steve's demonstrations of his use of editing tools, executed with restraint and finesse. This class is designed to break down the steps to really understand the processes, and to work through difficult images. These two days will be spent exploring the tools really needed by photographers for fundamental image repair and restoration. Various sharpening techniques and the archiving of your files will be our additional primary concerns.


Intermediate Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on
April 10-11, 2010

This workshop is designed to be a follow-up on previous printing classes, helping the students maintain their growth and increasing control of the printing process. More assistance than lecture, this class focuses exclusively on refining your fine-art digital printing using our first-class Digital Lab, primarily using Epson inkjet printers. Concentration will be on inkjet printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag papers working with Steve again to continue your printing progress.


Tahoe Photo Retreat and Critiques
April 17-18, 2010

Come spend a weekend in the Sierra with photographer Stephen Johnson in Alpine Meadows near Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe. This two-day retreat is designed to immerse you in photography. Work with Steve on image processing, composition, and the why of photography.


Pt. Reyes National Seashore
May 15-17, 2010

This three-day workshop includes field instruction, critiques, and discussion of composition, digital camera characteristics and exposure. Individualized instruction is designed to accommodate beginning and advanced students. The weekend will mix walking and driving, exploring the trails, beaches and rural countryside of the park. We will visit the windblown Point Reyes headlands that juts miles out into the Pacific, offering ocean views found nowhere else. Time will also be spent in the forest, looking for form and design in the rich flora.

A beautiful coastal forest, isolated undeveloped beaches and views encompassing hundreds of square miles of land and sea will be the rewards of this weekend at Point Reyes. This dynamic landscape promises an intensive and interesting three days on northern California’s rugged coastline

The Tuscan Landscape with Stephen Johnson
September 23-30, 2010

Spend a week in Italy with renowned landscape photographer/educator Stephen Johnson. Centered in a 12th Century Tuscan monastery, this photography workshop promises to be an extraordinary opportunity to explore the Tuscan landscape and learn from one of the most dynamic educators and talented photographers working today.

Workshop headquarters will be San Fedele, an ex-monastery dating back to the 12th century.  It is situated in the Chianti hills, 12 km north of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.  The nearest towns are the medieval city of Radda-in-Chianti and the village of Vagliagli. San Fedele was completely restored beginning in 2001 and today has 17 guest rooms and several classrooms and studios.

Personal Workshops and Art Consulting

Arrangements can be made to work with Steve individually at his studio or at custom locations. Call for a discussion of the possibilities. 650 355-7507


Steve and Tom
Olympic Peninsula, 2002.

* Check out our workshop web page for information on all of our workshops, including both our field and studio workshops.

UPCOMING EVENTS with Stephen Johnson

mmw logo

Maine Media Workshops


Iceland: Mastery of Landscape
July 25-31, 2010

The wondrous and raw volcanic landscape, geothermal features and sheer remoteness are the settings for this Icelandic experience. Water and sea, weather and mountains, reflection and growth...come spend the week with us. We will work in the field and in the lab. We will interact with what has been done. We will look, ask much of our work and press on to make it as strong and sensitive as possible. Organized by Focus on Nature.


Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
Photographer Lecture Series

The New Photograph
an evening with digital photography pioneer Stephen Johnson

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 7:00PM
College of DuPage Student Resource Center (SRC) room 2800
425 Fawell Blvd. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Apple Store, North Michigan Avnue, Chicago
679 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 981-4104

Tuesday April 6, 6:30pm

At The Studio Gallery

Galleries open by appointment. 650 355-7507.

Class Visits

Many of my fellow photography instructors have brought their classes by the gallery and studios for talks over the years. I realized I had never made this aspect of our activities here public, so here it is:

We welcome photography classes to visit our studios and galleries.



Feature Story in the last issue of Studio and Location Photography. April 2009

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs

Podcast #37: Witnessing and Holding the Beauty in Landscape Photography -- An Interview with Stephen Johnson

Guest appearances on Bert Monroy's Pixel Perfect Web TV Series.
Episode 103

Episode 104

O'REILLY podcast
MacVoices Podcast
MacEdtion Radio
DIMA Podcast
Photoshop World Podcast

tsj interview pix

Photoshop World: March 2008 Interview


Parks Book Interview with Dianne Pitman. May 2008


Inside Digital Photo by Scott Sheppard: Stephen Johnson. Sept. 2008


Book Reviews

Barnes & Noble Review: From Our Editors
This is a passionate, deeply personal guide to digital photography by a true legend in the field. If you've been fortunate enough to participate in one of Stephen Johnson's seminars or to view his breathtaking national parks landscapes, you know his book has the potential to be truly extraordinary. And so it is.Johnson teaches sophisticated technique without ever losing track of art. You will learn powerfully important things about digital sensors and high dynamic range photography; about multi-exposure panoramas and scanning; about tone, layers, and Photoshop curves; about Camera RAW Workflow and honest restoration.He roots digital photography deeply in its historical context without ever losing sight of the present -- or the future. He also captures the deep importance of digital photography -- and its ethical implications -- without ever becoming pretentious. And the images? No words suffice.

-Bill Camarda, from the November 2006 Read Only

Book Comments online

"Steve Johnson, one of the true visionaries of the digital photography era, offers us a technical tour de force and passionate artistic overview of the possibilities inherent in this new medium. On Digital Photography should be required reading for every aspiring photographic artist."

-Ted Orland, photographer & writer

...As Johnson says at the books very beginning in a Note from the Author: “I have often also been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and the heart behind the imagery.” Indeed and at the book’s end he uses this frustration to deliver hugely enlightening home run. The book itself is an artistic treasure with a very meaningful subtitle: Text, Photography and Design by Stephen Johnson. Johnson obviously demanded freedom to create. Tim O’Reilly did well when he granted Johnson’s wish. Quite simple the best photography book I have ever seen.

-Gordon Cook's Collaborative Edge
September 9, 2006


Printers I'm no longer using are being Donated to educational/charitable or government organizations. Send an email. All working when last used. Must pick up.

  • Epson 9000 (dye inks and Lyson grayscale set included)
  • Epson 9500
  • Epson 10000


Printers being replaced:

  • Epson 2200 $300
  • HP 5500 Color Laser $1500

Featured Products


GrayCapsTM Digital gray card. The Digital gray card you will always have with you, even among 10,000 penguins.

graycap penguin

Matting and Framing DVD

A one-hour video demonstrating how to prepare, measure, cut your matts, label and frame photographic prints.

To order

gray cap


gray acr

A Photographer's Journey DVD

A Photographer's Journey is an 8 minute mini-documentary on landscape photographer Stephen Johnson's ground-breaking all digital photography in America's National Parks, With a New Eye. Produced by Apple Computer in 1998.

Additional Features

  • Parks Project Gallery

More info

To order


Visit Our Online Store

We continue to offer a wide variety of Steve's posters, books, notecards and a video or two from our Products page.

There is also a new page devoted just to books and one devoted just to products from our national parks project, With a New Eye.

Please take a look and browse. There are many one of a kind items there, available nowhere else.


The Bookstore  

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

There is something for everyone in this beautiful and definitive guide for digital photography enthusiasts, from cutting edge camera and software techniques to engaging discourse on the history and future of digital photography. Published by O'Reilly, 2006. 320 pages, over 700 color and duotone illustrations.


Art and Fear
by Ted Orland and David Bayles
1993. $12.95

A terrific book. A must read for every artist who has struggled with working, creating, reaching out and hanging in there.


Ted Orland's New Photographic Truths Poster.
24x36 inches. $20.

An underground classic, gracing the walls of university darkrooms and professional studios alike. But now (finally!) it’s available again in a new edition — still illustrated with the same friendly picture of Ansel Adams, but with a text that now includes many newly-discovered and critical digital truths.


Advice for Photographers: The Next Step
by Al Weber
2007. $12

Based on decades of teaching, Weber has collected and organized ideas and suggestions to aid those who would be photographers. A 72-page field manual.


We are now offering rental time in our new lab on an hourly basis during our normal business hours.

By appointment only.
$25 per hour, plus a per print charge

Includes full access to calibrated monitors, fast G5 Macs, Epson pigment inkjet printers, 5000°k viewing lights and color profile creation hardware and software.

Appointments can be made by calling 650 355-7507.
Familiarity with Mac OSX and Photoshop CS4 or Adobe Lightroom 2 recommended. Staff tutorials available for additional charge.

A Great Opportunity!
  • Fully equipped lab
  • Make your own printer profiles
  • Finally have access to the equipment you need


Digital Portraits by
The Studios of Stephen Johnson Photography

  • Instant Feedback
  • Special prices
  • Satisfaction or no fees


Stephen Johnson Editions

  • Artwork Copying
  • Custom Printing
  • Custom Profiles




watercolor by Ralph Putzker



To purchase original prints, see:

11x14 pigment on rag paper $450 from existing prints

•Information on Stephen Johnson's Original Prints

With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project


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 michelle@sjphoto.com 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


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

Map to studio
Studio directions and site layout.


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Newsletter Archive

Last updated on March 15, 2010 . Mail comments to: info@sjphoto.com
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2010, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.