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Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Trail and Pacific Ocean. 2012.. Email to order a print. Next Workshop Large Format Printing next weekend, March 23-24, 2013.

Welcome to the March 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Looking for a comet tonight, and forward to some new classes over the next few months, as well as building out our digital lab for more versatile work and views. It's a busy spring ahead, and an even busier summer with Maine, Ireland and Alaska workshops coming up.

This month's View From Here column reflects on selecting photographs to group together and a short tribute to Steve's friend Michael Black who we lost last week. We hope you find the column of value and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial this month is a reply to a student's inquiry.


  • New workshop: Flora and Form  April 25-27, 2013 or May 16-18, 2013. Shelldance Nursery and Stephen Johnson Photography Studios and Gallery
  • Our itinerary is set for our Alaskan Adventure Workshop August, 5-17 2013. This is an exciting journey to an unforgettable landscape, which never ceases to impress and inspire whether you are a first time or returning traveler. We will be moving about via trains, planes, and boats through Kenai Fjords, Denali and Katmai National Parks. These parklands are rich with color, wildlife, textures, abstraction and exciting compositional opportunities. Lodging and transportation seating fill up fast, so it would be wise to move quickly and join us on this great adventure.

  • 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 and Alaska Workshop this Summer! see below.

The next section of our popular printing workshop Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on runs from June 1-4, 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 21-31, 2013. This photography workshop on the emerald isle does all of the planning and itinerary work for you to maximize learning, exploration, comfort and enjoyment. Steve's 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. Exciting field trips, on-site instruction, problem solving techniques and daily critiques are all fundamental to this workshop. Join us!

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 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



Succulent. Shelldance. Pacifica. 2013 iPhone Photograph..

Succulent. 2013
9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

symmetry and sensual form in prep for the Flora and Form Workshop coming up in April and May...


Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Pt. Lobos and Carmel March 16-18, 2013
Large-Format Printing March 23-24, 2013
Flora and Form  April 25-27, 2013
Highway One San Mateo Coast  April 20-21, 2013

Pt. Reyes National Seashore  May 4-6, 2013

Flora and Form May 16-18, 2013
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on June 1-4, 2013
RAW to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp June 10-14, 2013
Ireland 2013: July 21-31, 2013
Alaska's Parklands: August 5-17, 2013
Speaking Events (see below)

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ice sheet

Ice Sheet at Dawn. Merced River. Yosemite.. 2013

by Stephen Johnson

Redwoods, Flowers and Ice.

Themes can run strange as you start to look through recent work. The photographs may not be necessarily related except in the time frame you might have made them. But there are also times when visual relationships and sensitivities do suggest something going on bringing somewhat disparate work together. Sometimes only as timeline, sometimes an evolution of your current state of heart.

Those sequences of interests inevitably couple with what we notice in looking back at the photographs, picking out what we want to work on. That in and of itself can be interesting, because we don't just record our photographs, we have to decide to process them into more finished works. It becomes a continuum of selection and caring and that may be more revealing than a conscious effort to create a body of work.

So as I looked through photographs from the last month, I chose a few that moved me, some I wish were more successful, and some that sprung new ideas, and even a new workshop.

yos class

Yosemite in Winter Workshop. 2013.

The Yosemite in Winter Workshop

Our Yosemite Workshop last month went great, good people, comfortable weather and a wide variety of photographs were made. Moving through the park did bring back many memories of challenges and opportunities over the years. Yosemite Valley is a place full of photographic icons, which can prove challenging to see uniquely. We were somewhat amazed as we passed hundreds of people lined up to get a photograph of Horsetail Falls at sunset. For me, I think, the photograph would have been of the photographers.

Giant Sequoias are always dramatic, but very difficult to photograph in a way that communicates their grandeur accurately. Mid-19th century photographs often posed people next to the giant trees to portray their unbelievable size. Those photographs were documents for the most part, needed documents, and were amazing. Their immense scale is now well known. Seeing the trees for the first time overwhelms the viewer with that very size. Their reality is impressive. So our photographs now seem to strive to confirm their amazing scale, but not repeat the cliches', and make art as well. A big challenge, so to speak.

I'm not sure I've ever risen to the challenge, but thought I'd share a few recent photographs and past efforts to render these giants.


Bachelor and the Three Graces. Mariposa Grove in late afternoon light. 3 shot HDR file. 2013.

The photograph above works for me mostly as a memory jog of the light and scale. It is reasonably well-executed, but an obvious location, and an expected, even if natural composition. I am unmoved in the sense that I feel like I've seen many variations on it, from old hand-colored postcards to hundreds of advertisements over the years. Postcards and these trees have a long history together that continues.


Thanks to Ted Orland for the postcard above. His Man and Yosemite book is well worth checking out.


A few years back, working on the digital national parks project, With a New Eye, I also struggled with the Giant Sequoias with only ok results. The photographs are fine, but I've yet to make a photograph of these trees that even comes close to the emotional response of being in their presence.

By the way, check out the Save the Redwoods League.


Ice Yosemite Valley. 2013

icy leaves

Ice Crystalled Leaves near Merced River. Yosemite. 1977.

Ice in Yosemite has been another matter. Even early photographs from the 1970s revealed my fascination with ice in the park. This workshop proved again that for me that small scenes, like the ice, can often be as rewarding photographically as the iconic and massive rocks and cliffs of Yosemite's famous skyline. It's not that the tiny ice abstractions match the grandeur of Half Dome or El Capitan, but in the light-based world of the photographic image, beauty is not only derived from the spectacular, but also often from the small and humble scenes, and has little to do with scale.

We spent more time during our dawn session at the Merced River looking down at an icy eddy than staring up at the rather spectacular Yosemite Falls. Although the falls, cliffs, ice dune and frozen mist did get some deserved attention.

...continued top of right column



Succulent. 2013. iPhone Photograph.

Flora and Form

Before my friend Michael's memorial service last week, we sought solace in the natural beauty and form of wondrous flora by visiting our local orchid nursery.

An idea I had been considering for awhile arose once again, of putting a workshop together exploring the challenges and great opportunities of the natural form and photography. Fortunately, Shelldance Orchid Gardens agreed that it was a good idea and a new workshop was born.

Check out the Flora and Form  Workshop April 16-18, 2013 or May 16-18, 2013. Any and all cameras welcome.


Orchids. 2013.


Weird Plant. 2013. iPhone Photograph

dv woorkshop

Michael Black

I lost a dear friend last week, my friend of 30 years, Michael Black. I first came to know Mike about 1984 as an advisor/helper/consultant on the Great Central Valley exhibition I did with my friend Robert Dawson. Michael had been working for years on native Salmon runs, their destruction and mismanagement. He taught as a visiting professor of political science at many universities and had written widely on the Salmon issue. Michael put together a Symposium on the Central Valley, its people, its water and agriculture during the Great Central Valley Project Exhibitions' run at the California Academy of Sciences in 1985.

Michael was a great humanitarian in his generosity of spirit, support for his friends and deep love of his 16 year old son. We lost Michael to a hit and run accident as he was walking back to his car from a nature walk in Santa Rosa California. Mike was 64 years old and was deeply loved by many friends. He was a fellow board member on the Pacifica Land Trust on which I serve.

I will miss his friendship, his appreciation for the natural world, his encouragement for my art, and his companionship that will now only be memories rather than plans.

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 year, such as Rockport, Maine in late June, Amherst, MA in July and Dublin Ireland in early August.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery

Millbrea Camera Club and Royal Photographic Society meeting at Stephen Johnson Photography. Sponsored by Canon.
March 28, 2013 at 7pm.

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

  • Chicago Region in April

    College of DuPage. 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL 60137
    Tuesday April 9. 7pm

    Chicago: Columbia College. Thursday, April 11 at 6:00pm to 8:00pm
    Alexandroff Campus Center, 101 600 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL,

  • 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.
  • Tualatin River Photographic Society
    Sherwood, OR, near Portland Oregon
    Saturday October 5. 7pm


Northern California Field Workshops Coming Up

Highway One Journey: April 20-21, 2013

The stretch of coast, from San Francisco south to Santa Cruz, remains a road of refuge and heart engagement for me. The Highway One Coastal Journey Workshop April 20-21 explores the beaches, forests and hills along this awesome roadway.

Pt. Reyes National Seashore: May 4-6, 2013

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 California’s rugged coastline.


A Reply to a Student

I frequently get emails from photography students around the country having been asked to research a photographer whose work they enjoy. Typically they ask me about my work habits, equipment and processes. In answering one of these this morning, it seemed that it might be relevant to a wider audience.

I use a variety of cameras depending on the situation, 35mm style dSLRs like my Canon cameras for highly portable work, my Hasselblad cameras with Phase One back for higher resolution, and my 4x5 Betterlight scanning back for my most serious work.

I don't really have any tips or tricks, just the most sincere application of craft I can put into the image. I don't use Photoshop to change the image, but just like with silver based photography, I use the raw file much like the exposed but undeveloped negative and carefully process it in Adobe CameraRaw and then in Photoshop to reveal, to the best of my ability and the best of the technology, what was before the camera.

Fast shutter speeds, careful use of aperture for desired depth of field, no smaller aperture than required to maximize lens sharpness, normal ISO when possible, making sure I get adequate exposure and take full advantage of the tonal resolution of the device. These and many other considerations go into any well-crafted exposure in the camera.

I don't believe in concepts like enhancement in Photoshop. The world is already self-embellished, As I see it, my job is to be a loving witness to the wonder of the planet, bring sensitivity to making a photograph, take the time and care to execute a well crafted exposure, then be faithful to that inspiration all through the processing of the image. The real world is so much more interesting than the chromed-up cartoon-like results I see so often from extensive use of Photoshop to alter and manipulate.

I hope that helps, with my perspective at least.




The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop Featured Product

National Park Notecards

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

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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 March 19, 2013 . Mail comments to:
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